In the summer of 2022 the EPA released new health advisories (HAs) for a chemical group known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). These chemicals are widespread in the environment since they have been commonly used in manufacturing since the 1940s. They are used in the production of everyday items particularly carpet and textiles, non-stick cookware, food packaging, firefighting foam, aerospace, automotive production, construction materials, and electronics.
The health advisory comes after mounting scientific evidence is proving that PFAS exposure is linked to long term health problems including negative effects on metabolism, pregnancy, children’s cognition and neurobehavioral development, and the immune system. Studies also suggest these chemicals may lead to higher cholesterol, altered liver function, thyroid disease, and increased levels of kidney and testicular cancer.
The EPA’s health advisory was a step in the right direction towards protecting public health, but unfortunately, the EPAs process tends to be slow and will invariably be challenged in court. However, another avenue for regulating PFAS chemicals is providing a glimmer of hope, state level regulations. State bans for products containing PFAS are likely to have a more immediate impact on PFAS usage as industries will look to eliminate their usage in order to maintain access to important markets. We already see many states creating regulations to protect the public’s health from these dangerous chemicals. In the US, 20 states are now regulating PFAS in fire fighting foam, and 10 states have banned PFAS in food packaging. You can learn more about which states are regulating PFAS at this link.