How EPA action can spur toxic “forever chemical” cleanup

If we can convince the EPA to designate two "forever chemicals" as hazardous, we could kickstart their cleanup.

Toxic threats

Mike Forsman via Flickr | Public Domain
“Superfund” sites, such as this one in southern California, are home to hazardous waste and require cleanup under federal law.

Toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” are contaminating our soil and waterways — and they’ll stick around forever if we don’t clean them up.

Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering listing two types of PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, which would jumpstart the cleanup of PFAS-contaminated sites.

The forever problem

PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are all around us. For decades, they’ve been used to make goods nonstick, stain-proof or water-repellent. And for decades, these toxic chemicals have run off into our waterways wherever they’re manufactured, used or thrown away.

PFAS accumulate in our environment (and our bodies) and stick around for a long, long time — earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” And most alarmingly, exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to cancer and a laundry list of other health problems.

Now, the EPA is considering listing two types of PFAS chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — as hazardous under the Superfund law.

These two chemicals, once used in cookware, carpets and firefighting foam, have already been largely phased out by manufacturers. But they still threaten our environment and our health in the form of the contamination that’s been building up in our soil and water for years.

PFAS chemicals have been identified at 180 Superfund sites, many of them containing PFOA and PFOS — but they won’t get cleaned up until they’re designated as hazardous. Doing so will grant the EPA the power to require polluters to clean up their mess.

Your action can help clean these hazardous chemicals

In 2019, we helped win a ban on the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS on military bases — a significant source of water contamination. And we’re calling on Congress to pass a nationwide law to help curb PFAS pollution.

But right now, we have a can’t-miss opportunity to jumpstart the cleanup of the PFAS contamination that’s already harming our environment and our health.

Add your name to urge the EPA to take action on forever chemicals.

Topics
Authors

John Rumpler

Senior Director, Clean Water for America Campaign and Senior Attorney, Environment America

John directs Environment America's efforts to protect our rivers, lakes, streams and drinking water. John’s areas of expertise include lead and other toxic threats to drinking water, factory farms and agribusiness pollution, algal blooms, fracking and the federal Clean Water Act. He previously worked as a staff attorney for Alternatives for Community & Environment and Tobacco Control Resource Center. John lives in Brookline, Mass., with his family, where he enjoys cooking, running, playing tennis, chess and building sandcastles on the beach.

Emily Rogers

Zero Out Toxics, Advocate, PIRG

Emily advocates to remove toxic chemicals from our everyday lives and the environment. Emily is a NEPA native and enjoys knitting, hiking and cooking with friends.

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