Hot Topic Update – EPA Solicits Comments on Draft PFAS Toxicity Assessment and Validates Test Method

This summer, I posted about a group of emerging contaminants: poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). There’s recent news from EPA on PFAS.  On November 14, EPA posted draft toxicity assessments for two members of the PFAS group – GenX and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS). Comments are due January 22, 2019. 

What Are PFAS?

PFAS are simply defined as a group of organic chemicals with fluoride atoms attached. They were popular for their resistant properties, such as heat, stains, water, and friction. One could find certain PFAS in items such as non-stick cookware, food packaging, carpet, and fire-fighting foam. Unfortunately, studies found that PFAS had negative health effects, including stunting growth, reproductive problems, and possible increased cancer risk. Although their manufacture had been phased out, PFAS still remain from products in use, items that have been disposed in landfills, and from water runoff from fire-fighting drills at airfields.

Proposed Toxicity Values

In May 2018, EPA held a PFAS Summit with state and federal agencies and other interested parties to discuss PFAS. One of the action items from the summit was to develop draft toxicity values for GenX and PFBS by summer 2018. Only somewhat late, EPA had issued the draft value. Ironically, GenX and PFBS were developed as “safe” substitutes for other PFAS. But as it turned out, they had toxicity risks, too.

While EPA has stated that, at this time, it does not intend to regulate GenX and PFBS, the toxicity values may guide states, tribes, and local governments to set limits, especially in drinking water sources.

Comments, due January 22, 2019, can be submitted online via the Federal Register posting.

PFAS Test Method Validated by EPA

A week later, on November 21, 2018, EPA published an updated and validated way to test for PFAS in drinking water. EPA Method 537 has been used since 2009 to test for 14 PFAS, many of which have parts per trillion limits set by certain states, such as New Jersey. EPA has now added ways to test for GenX and three additional PFAS chemicals as Method 537.1

Take Aways

An increasing number of state environmental agencies are requiring that PFAS be tested during a site investigation. Be prepared for that requirement and make sure the correct EPA test method is being used to ensure the results will be approved by the agency and not a waste of money.

During environmental due diligence, be wary of properties down gradient of airfields (military and public), because these airfields may have used PFAS during fire training activities in the form of fire-fighting foam. Consider testing for PFAS in Phase II activities.

Please post your PFAS experiences in the comments section of this blog, and email me if you have any questions or need assistance.

392 thoughts on “Hot Topic Update – EPA Solicits Comments on Draft PFAS Toxicity Assessment and Validates Test Method”

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