EPA unveils strategy to regulate toxic ‘forever chemicals’

Oct 17, 2021, 6:10 PM | Updated: Oct 18, 2021, 9:38 pm
Professor Detlef Knappe, right, leads Michael Regan, left, the head of the Environmental Protection...

Professor Detlef Knappe, right, leads Michael Regan, left, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Gov. Roy Cooper on a tour of a laboratory that tests water samples for "forever chemicals," or PFAS, following an announcement of a Biden administration EPA plan to address PFAS pollution Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

(Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Monday it is launching a broad strategy to regulate toxic industrial compounds associated with serious health conditions that are used in products ranging from cookware to carpets and firefighting foams.

Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said his agency is taking a series of actions to limit pollution from a cluster of long-lasting chemicals known as PFAS that are increasingly turning up in public drinking water systems, private wells and even food.

The Defense Department said it is moving to assess and clean up PFAS-contaminated sites throughout the country, while the Food and Drug Administration will expand testing of the food supply to estimate Americans’ exposure to PFAS from food. And the Agriculture Department will boost efforts to prevent and address PFAS contamination in food.

The plan is intended to restrict PFAS from being released into the environment, accelerate cleanup of PFAS-contaminated sites such as military bases and increase investments in research to learn more about where PFAS are found and how their spread can be prevented.

“This is a bold strategy that starts with immediate action” and includes additional steps “that will carry through this first term” of President Joe Biden, Regan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re going to use every tool in our toolbox to restrict human exposure to these toxic chemicals.”

PFAS, called “forever chemicals” because they last so long in the environment, have been associated with serious health conditions, including cancer and reduced birth weight.

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are used in nonstick frying pans, water-repellent sports gear, stain-resistant rugs and countless other consumer products. The chemical bonds are so strong that they don’t degrade or do so only slowly in the environment and remain in a person’s bloodstream indefinitely.

Under the strategy announced Monday, the EPA will move to set aggressive drinking water limits for PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act and will require PFAS manufacturers to report on how toxic their products are. The agency also will designate PFAS as hazardous substances under the so-called Superfund law that allows the EPA to force companies responsible for the contamination to pay for the cleanup work or do it themselves.

The actions will make it easier for the EPA to ensure that cleanups are conducted safely and that “the polluter pays for that,´´ Regan said.

Environmental and public health groups welcomed the announcement. Advocates have long urged action on PFAS by the EPA, FDA, Pentagon and other agencies.

Thousands of communities have detected PFAS chemicals in their water, and PFAS have been confirmed at nearly 400 military installations, according to the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.

“No one should have to worry about toxic forever chemicals in their tap water,” said Scott Faber, the group’s senior vice president. The group is grateful that the Biden administration will fulfill the president’s pledge to address PFAS and “begin to turn off the tap of industrial PFAS pollution,” Faber said.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents major chemical companies, said it supports “strong, science-based regulation of chemicals, including PFAS substances.” But the group added: “All PFAS are not the same, and they should not all be regulated the same way. EPA’s Roadmap reinforces the differences between these chemistries and that they should not all be grouped together. We hope and expect any federal actions will be consistent with sound science.”

The regulatory strategy comes as Congress considers wide-ranging legislation to set a national drinking water standard for certain PFAS chemicals and clean up contaminated sites across the country, including military bases where high rates of PFAS have been discovered.

Legislation passed by the House would set a national drinking water standard for PFAS and direct the EPA to develop discharge limits for a range of industries suspected of releasing PFAS into the water. The bill has stalled in the Senate.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., lead sponsor of the House bill, applauded the EPA announcement and said cleanup of PFAS-contaminated sites must begin immediately.

“We’ve known about PFAS and its dangerous effects for years, and today, the federal government made a commitment to the American people that these chemicals cannot be ignored any longer,” she said.

Even with EPA action, Congress still must approve legislation to regulate and clean up PFAS, Dingell said. “It’s time for the Senate to act,” she said.

Regan, a former North Carolina environmental regulator who took over as the EPA head in March, said he saw firsthand in his home state how dangerous PFAS can be.

As North Carolina’s top environmental official, Regan led negotiations that resulted in the cleanup of the Cape Fear River, which has been dangerously contaminated by PFAS industrial compounds that were released for decades from a manufacturing plant run by a spinoff of chemical giant DuPont.

“I spent time with families in their communities, talking to them about the fears and worries that they had,” said Regan, who announced the agency plan at a news conference in Raleigh. “I spent time talking to mothers who were concerned about potential long-term impacts to their children, caregivers who were wondering if terminal illnesses of their loved ones were connected” to the PFAS release from the Fayetteville Works plant.

“So there is a real sense of urgency,” he added.

While praising enforcement actions in North Carolina, Regan said the state would have been in a stronger position “if the federal government would have been a better, stronger partner.”

The EPA under his leadership has “done more in eight months” on PFAS than the previous administration did in four years, he said.

Officials expect a proposed rule on PFAS in drinking water by 2023, Regan said. “We’re going to move as quickly as possible to set these safe drinking water limits,” he said.

Action on PFAS will not be done “on the backs of the American people,” Regan added. “We are holding the polluters accountable, and we’re using the full extent of our statutory authority to be sure that they pay for what they’ve done.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Vince Patton, a new Tesla owner, demonstrates on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, on a closed course in Por...
Associated Press

Drivers playing video games? US is looking into Tesla case

DETROIT (AP) — Last August, Vince Patton was watching a YouTube video of a Tesla owner who had made a startling observation: Tesla drivers could now play a video game on their car’s touch-screen dashboard — while the vehicle is moving. Curious to see for himself, Patton drove his own 2021 Tesla Model 3 to […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Top Philippine court: Anti-terror law largely constitutional

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine Supreme Court largely upheld on Thursday the legality of an anti-terrorism law that opponents fear could threaten democracy and muzzle dissent, but struck down a provision preventing street protests, activism and labor strikes from being branded as terrorism by authorities. The court’s decision, only portions of which were released, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

UK reports unprecedented jump in early season bird flu cases

LONDON (AP) — U.K. authorities reported an unprecedented jump in early season cases of avian flu in both domestic and wild birds, triggering tight restrictions on poultry farmers across the country. The government has confirmed 40 outbreaks of avian flu among poultry and other captive birds this year, resulting in the culling of about 500,000 […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

China tightens control to restrain currency’s rise

BEIJING (AP) — China’s central bank is trying to restrain the rise of the yuan after the currency hit a 2 1/2-year high against the dollar. Commercial banks were ordered Thursday to increase the amount of their foreign currency deposits that are held as reserves for the second time this year. That reduces the amount […]
1 day ago
Ukrainian soldiers walks at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Katerinivka, Donets...
Associated Press

Russia warns Kyiv against use of force in rebel regions

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s military warned the Ukrainian government Thursday against trying to settle a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine with force, a statement that adds to the tensions sparked by a Russian troop buildup near the Ukrainian border. Officials in Ukraine and the West have said the amassing of troops may indicate plans by […]
1 day ago
FILE - Used syringes in a bin at Swaminarayan School vaccination centre, in London, Saturday, Dec. ...
Associated Press

WHO warns fears of omicron could spark new vaccine hoarding

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization expressed concerns Thursday that rich countries spooked by the emergence of the omicron variant could step up the hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines and strain global supplies again, complicating efforts to stamp out the pandemic. The U.N. health agency, after a meeting of its expert panel on vaccination, reiterated […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
EPA unveils strategy to regulate toxic ‘forever chemicals’