Make Polluters Pay

24,040 members call on EPA to designate first two “forever chemicals” as hazardous substances under Superfund law

Toxic threats

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center submitted the comments of 24,040 members who are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or “Superfund”).

PFOA and PFOS are the original two types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that were invented in the 1940s and have been used since that time in a wide variety of products to make them water-, grease- and heat-resistant. PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” due to the fact that they do not break down naturally and build up in the environment and our bodies.

In fact, PFAS are so widely used and persistent that they have been found in public drinking water systems across the country and in the blood of most Americans. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to serious health effects including fertility and developmental issues, immune suppression and cancer.

Designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA would open up sites contaminated with these chemicals to cleanup through the Superfund program and would enable EPA to hold the responsible polluters liable for the cost of the cleanups. This proposed rule is a step in the right direction and will directly impact communities that have been impacted by PFOA and PFOS contamination.

In addition to calling on the EPA to expeditiously finalize this rule, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center also submitted a comment urging the agency to improve the rule in key ways.

  1. The agency should take a broader, class based approach to the entire class of PFAS, which consists of over 12,000 chemicals. This is necessary since many of the dangerous characteristics of PFAS are shared across the class and taking a chemical by chemical approach would take decades.
  2. All releases of PFOA and PFOS should be required to be reported to the agency. As the rule is currently written, the threshold for reporting is one pound per 24 hour period or more, which according to the EPA’s own health advisory levels for these chemicals in drinking water would not be protective of public health.

Read more about PFAS and their impacts here.

Emily Rogers

Former Zero Out Toxics, Advocate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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