EPA Commits To Long-Awaited Regulation For Toxic Chemicals

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plans to regulate—for the first time—the levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that manufacturers can discharge into wastewater. The EPA will begin crafting a rule that places limits on the amount of PFAS that can be discharged into sewage treatment systems and surface waters from facilities manufacturing PFAS. These manufacturing facilities are part of the organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers industries, and per the EPA’s announcement, a second pollution rule will target industries that perform metal-finishing operations.

PFAS are found in many of the consumer products that we use daily such as cookware, food packaging, and water-resistant materials. However, because they do not break down easily, these chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body. Exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health effects in humans, and if ingested, PFAS can accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time. Those who work at PFAS production facilities, or facilities that manufacture goods containing PFAS, may be exposed at work through contaminated air. Drinking water can also be a source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. This contamination is typically localized and associated with a particular entity.

Lawsuits over PFAS have increased in recent years following a 2017 settlement in which DuPont and Chemours Co. agreed to settle thousands of claims involving a leak of a toxic compound in the PFAS family. Currently, there are no federal regulatory standards for PFAS discharges, and while establishing these standards will likely take some time, the announcement is a big step in the right direction. The EPA says its regulations for the organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers industries cover more than 1,000 chemical facilities producing over 25,000 products, from benzene to rayon to polyester.

If you or someone you know has been affected by an industrial accident or chemical release, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-222-7211.