Per-and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” are garnering attention in the news amidst the inclusion of PFAS provisions in a military spending bill.
On July 12, 2019, the House voted to include amendments that address PFAS pollution as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020. This action comes soon after the Administration cited a strong objection to these NDAA PFAS provisions in a statement released on July 9, 2019.
Remind me why PFAS contamination is a big deal…
Forever chemicals are of concern because their complex mixture and unique chemistry make them persistent in the environment and slow to break down. PFAS compounds are also linked to toxicity, bioaccumulation, and long half lives in humans.
Other challenges with PFAS include:
- Regulatory uncertainty
- Uncertain/developing toxicology
- Analysis is highly specialized and inconsistent
- Remediation options exist, but are currently limited
A report released in May 2019 found PFAS contamination in 43 states. This report was published soon after the EPA released a PFAS Action Plan, which included a PFAS Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and a designation of the chemicals under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
What happens next?
The House NDAA bill would dedicate funds for PFAS remediation, add PFAS to the toxic pollutants list, require EPA to list PFAS a hazardous substance under the CERCLA, and phase out military use of PFAS by 2025, among other actions to remedy contamination by these group of chemicals.
The Senate passed its own version of the NDAA on June 22, 2019, which would also allow the Department of Defense to treat PFAS-contaminated water. The inclusion of PFAS in the NDAA is an important step toward regulating and cleaning up these forever chemicals in the environment.
The two NDAA versions will go to conference this week; however, it is expected that the NDAA will continue to receive some pushback.
Ask us your PFAS questions!
Trihydro’s team of emerging contaminants experts are highly involved in research projects to help advance solutions for PFAS management. We are monitoring PFAS closely and will continue to provide updates as developments occur.
Mitch Olson, Ph.D, P.E.,
PFAS Subject-Matter Expert
Toxicologist & Risk Assessor