Increased PFAS Regulation May Be Coming – What you Need to Know

By Jared Saterfiel

After nearly 2½ months under the Biden administration, the climate policy agenda remains abundantly clear: a focus on environmental justice and an emphasis on intensifying regulation. Predictions on the next major regulatory action abound as American industries scramble to stay ahead of morphing policy. 

While it’s impossible to predict the future with 100% accuracy, we can monitor shifts in EPA policy, new regulations, and recently issued executive orders to form a reasonable picture of the following months and years. The next hot button regulatory issue appears to be shaping up. The newest EPA targets are likely to be per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

But increased scrutiny of PFAS offers industry leaders a chance to take action today on the regulation of tomorrow. As an ENR top 200 Environmental Firm, PPM Consultants has a nearly 30-year track record of helping its clients adapt swiftly and efficiently in the face of changing regulation. 

To understand how your industry may be affected by PFAS regulation, we first need to understand the chemical byproduct and its history. 

What are PFAS?

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in foreign and domestic manufacturing. Often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in both environmental settings and the human body, the effects of PFAS have been widely studied. Evidence is mounting that PFAS can cause adverse health effects, including increased cholesterol, incidents of cancer, and thyroid hormone disruption (among others). 

Based on regulatory action of similar chemical byproducts in the past, PFAS are looking ripe for intensified EPA review.

Where are PFAS found?

PFAS are known to contaminate crop soil, drinking water, food packaging, and food packaging machinery. The presence of PFAS in drinking water appears to be the greatest focus under the Biden Administration.

The chemical’s presence in industrial food packaging has also contributed to its infamy and will likely push the matter beyond watchfulness and into action, resulting in impending regulation. 

PFAS can also be found in the following products:

  • Stain- and water-repellent fabrics
  • Nonstick products (Teflon)
  • Polishes
  • Waxes
  • Paints
  • Fire extinguisher foam
  • Industrial machinery
  • Exposed living organisms

 

The sheer variety of PFAS applications makes it likely that your industry (or an industry you do business with) should be concerned about future regulatory action.

Past PFAS Regulation

PFAS are not new to EPA scrutiny. In 2006, the EPA partnered with eight major industrial companies to start a global stewardship program dedicated to reducing facility PFAS emissions with the ultimate goal of eliminating the chemical from emissions altogether. Major industrial players such as 3M, DuPont, and Solvay Solexis committed to the stewardship program.

The stewardship program was widely seen as a success with all partner companies meeting the program goals. But while domestic usage of PFAS has fallen somewhat, the chemical byproduct is still used by some domestic manufacturers and is heavily used by foreign manufacturers. 

Affected Industries

The proliferation of PFAS in foreign and domestic manufacturing could have wide-reaching effects on industries of all kinds. But those industries with the most direct connection to PFAS will have the longer ladder to climb in the event of increased regulation.

Those in the food sector (packaging and growing), the commercial household product sector (fabric repellants, polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products), and drinking water suppliers will have the closest connection to PFAS.

Manufacturing facilities that produce or heavily feature chrome plating and electronics may also have something to worry about when it comes to PFAS. Petroleum refineries are also likely to be affected due to the use of firefighting foam (featuring PFAS) in combating frequent fires in equipment and surrounding work areas.

Likelihood of Regulation

Several states have already set limits for PFAS concentrations in groundwater. Other states are considering similar legislation. In December of 2019, the EPA released its own groundwater guidance along with an action plan for PFAS

Given the decades of slow attention PFAS have been receiving, it’s only natural that the EPA under the Biden Administration will finally take action and review the current guidance and regulatory law. PFAS could qualify as a “hazardous substance” in the very near future.

PPM Can Help

In the face of constantly evolving environmental regulation, you need a partner that not only keeps you up to date, but ahead of the game. PPM Consultants can analyze the impact of impending regulation on your facility and bring you up to date with the regulations of the future.

PPM Consultants can help you adapt to future regulations!

As EPA and federal standards shift, PPM Consultants shifts too. PPM keeps its thumb on the pulse of the EPA so that you can focus on your business operation and continued success. To become an industry leader and stay ahead of the game, or for more information about what PPM can do for you, write to us here or call 1-800-945-4834 today!