Statement: EPA proposes to designate PFAS as hazardous substances

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Thursday two new rules to strengthen the EPA’s authority to regulate per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS)  under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The EPA is proposing to clarify its authority to require cleanup of contamination of PFAS and other chemicals of concern. The agency is also proposing to list multiple PFAS compounds as hazardous constituents under RCRA. That would trigger a set of regulatory options for the EPA.

PFAS, a class of more than 12,000 toxic chemicals, are used to add grease- and water-resistant properties to many consumer products, including food packaging, carpets and clothing.  The manufacture, use and disposal of products containing PFAS has tainted drinking water sources for 200 million Americans. Known as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment and human body, Experts have linked PFAS, even in small amounts over time, to serious human health problems, including kidney and liver disease, birth defects and cancer.

In a 2023 report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research and Policy Center, The Threat of “Forever Chemicals,” the groups recommended the EPA designate all PFAS, as a single class, as hazardous substances under RCRA.

In response, experts from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research and Policy Center issued the following statements:

“For decades the chemical industry has polluted our communities with toxic ‘forever chemicals,’ putting our health at risk,” said Emily Scarr, director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Stop Toxic PFAS campaign. “The EPA’s proposal is a welcome step toward cleaning up contamination. To fully prevent harm from PFAS, we need to phase out the use of the entire class of PFAS and regulate them as a single class. Otherwise, our regulators and lawmakers will be stuck playing an endless game of whack-a mole.”

“PFAS pollution is widespread across the country,” said John Rumpler, director of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s clean water program. “EPA scientists have confirmed that PFAS, even at very low levels, present a serious threat to our health and the environment. There is really only one way out of this toxic morass: We need to clean up the contamination in our waterways and communities and phase out the use of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ as soon as possible. We applaud the EPA for this announcement.”