Continual changes with PFAS

Date Posted: 01/30/2023
Water Sampling

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. There are thousands of different PFAS, but perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate are two of the most extensively used.

Unfortunately, PFAS break down very slowly. In fact, many PFAS are found in human blood worldwide. Exposure to PFAS can occur when you:

  • Drink contaminated water,
  • Eat fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS,
  • Unintentionally swallow contaminated soil or dust,
  • Eat food grown or raised by places that used or made PFAS,
  • Eat food packaged in material that contains PFAS, or
  • Use some products such as stain resistant carpeting and water repellent clothing.

Current research shows that PFAS exposure can lead to decreased fertility, increased risk of some cancers, developmental delays, and increased cholesterol among other issues. Due to this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cracked down on PFAS in recent years.

EPA takes action

On January 5, 2023, EPA released an interactive webpage called PFAS Analytic Tools. It supplies information about PFAS nationwide by incorporating mapping, charting, and filtering functions. The public can see where testing has occurred, and the level of detections measured. A user can search a particular state of interest and even narrow down results to a city or area in the state of interest. This digital tool puts a further magnifying lens on companies by publicly displaying facilities that historically manufacture or import PFAS. Roughly 120,000 facilities subject to federal environmental programs operated or now operate in industry sectors with processes that may involve handling and/or release of PFAS.

The day after the digital PFAS tool launched, EPA added nine PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list. TRI is a mandatory program that tracks the management of some toxic chemicals that may threaten human health and the environment. Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) created the TRI Program. Under EPCRA, TRI data are reported to EPA annually by facilities in certain industry sectors that manufacture, process, or otherwise use TRI-listed chemicals above certain quantities. Due to this update, affected companies must report on the nine additional PFAS starting with reporting year 2023.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan has further PFAS changes planned for the rest of 2023 and well into 2024. These are outlined in the 2021 document, PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Staying in compliance with federal environmental regulations is challenging, especially when new variables are being introduced. The J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE offers the ability to ask PFAS-related questions through the Expert Help tool. The Subject Matter Experts who support SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE will provide a response within one business day.

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