EPA ramps up PFAS investigation as health fears increase

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to test a new breed of forever chemicals admitting that the threat to health is still not understood.

The EPA has issued the third Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) test order requiring testing on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under EPA’s National PFAS Testing Strategy, part of the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront contamination from forever chemicals nationwide.

Under the latest scheme several prominent US chemical companies are to conduct and submit testing on 2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoro-2-(heptafluoropropoxy)propanoyl fluoride (HFPO-DAF), a substance used as a reactant in organic chemical manufacturing. HFPO-DAF is known to be used to make the chemical Hexafluoropropylene Oxide (HFPO) Dimer Acid (CASRN 13252-13-6), also known by the trade name GenX. HFPO-DA is used in the production of nonstick coatings, stain repellent, and other consumer and industrial products and was widely used to replace PFOA. More than 1 million pounds of HFPO-DAF are manufactured each year, according to TSCA Chemical Data Reporting rule reports.

“We still don’t know enough about the dangers that many PFAS might pose to human health,” said assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “We’re using all the tools at our disposal to rapidly gather data about these substances so that we can better understand the potential environmental and human health impacts of PFAS and take any necessary steps to address them.”

The EPA added: “After thoroughly examining existing hazard and exposure data, EPA has concluded that HFPO-DAF may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. The potential hazards from exposure to this chemical could include organ damage, including to the eyes and skin, as well as cancer. EPA has also concluded that workers may be exposed to HFPO-DAF.

“Additionally, EPA’s recent proposal to regulate six PFAS in drinking water, including HFPO-DA and its salts, isomers, and derivatives which includes HFPO-DAF, found there was a meaningful opportunity to reduce health risks to people consuming drinking water contaminated by these PFAS. The test order will help EPA better understand the potential hazards and potential exposures associated with HFPO-DAF.”

The agency added the information it receives under the latest order will not only improve the agency’s understanding of human health effects of HFPO-DAF, but also the potential effects of dozens of PFAS that are structurally similar to HFPO-DAF and in the same Testing Strategy category of PFAS, improving the agency’s overall data on PFAS.

“The companies subject to the test order may either conduct the tests as described in the order, including testing of physical-chemical properties and health effects following inhalation, or provide EPA with existing information they believe EPA did not identify in its search, but which satisfies the order requirements,” it added. “EPA encourages companies to jointly conduct testing to avoid unnecessary duplication of tests and will also consider possible combinations of tests that cover all required endpoints to diminish the amount of time, animal subjects and costs required.”