Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), otherwise known as forever chemicals, have been making headlines due to their persistent nature and potential health and environmental risks. Companies and organizations need to be aware of the recent rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requires reporting on PFAS-containing goods.
Finalized last month, this rule was initiated in 2020 when Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, compelling the EPA to develop regulations for data collection on PFAS substances. Companies are obligated to report on any PFAS-containing goods produced or imported for commercial purposes since January 1, 2011. This includes deliberate production, as well as the incidental generation of PFAS as byproducts or impurities during other manufacturing processes.
Companies must provide crucial information within 18 months, such as the types of PFAS they manufacture, use and concentration data, production volumes, byproduct information, environmental and health impact analysis, worker exposure data, and disposal methods.
The final rule was released under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on September 28th and published in the Federal Register on October 13th. The data collected is intended to assist the EPA in making informed decisions about future PFAS regulations.
Besides compliance – which will be a heavy lift for most – this is a significant regulation due to its breadth of scope. Understanding and complying with the EPA's PFAS reporting rule is critical for several reasons:
Accountability: For the first time, consumers will have access to over a decade of PFAS use by companies. This will inevitably create negative backlash for companies who are not making plans now to get ahead of the story by showing progress towards phasing out its forever chemicals.
Environmental and Health Impact: The rule requires companies to report on health and environmental impacts of their PFAS use. This is an opportunity to utilize companies’ ESG teams to show that employee health and local environmental impact are both top priorities for companies.
Potential Future Regulations: The data collected will influence future regulations, and compliance will be more manageable for well-informed companies. Meeting with EPA officials and congressional offices now will help companies better influence the process going forward.
This is an issue that isn’t going away. Companies and organizations should take this rule seriously as it indicates how regulators and the public will handle this issue going forward.