EPA Proposes Significant New Use Rule Restricting Uses of PFOA
Posted on February 9, 2015
On January 15, 2015, EPA proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR), pursuant to the Section 5(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C § 2604, to restrict the manufacture of long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) chemicals, the most prominent of which is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as well as the use of perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) chemicals in carpets.
Because of their stain and water repellent and non-stick properties, PFOA and other LCPFACs were at one time widely used in products such as rain jackets, non-stick cookwear, carpeting, fabrics, floor waxes, and wax paper. However, their use has been significantly curtailed following growing concerns about adverse health effects. According to EPA, LCPFACs are bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans, and are persistent in the environment. They are toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests, and are suspected—though not yet proven—to have similar adverse health effects upon humans.
Under TSCA section 5(a), once EPA determines that a chemical substance is a “significant new use,” no person may manufacture or import the substance without first providing EPA 90 days’ notice. During this period, EPA can evaluate the data and, if the agency deems it necessary, take action to limit or prohibit the activity. Typically SNURs exempt manufactured “articles” that contain the restricted chemicals; however, under the proposed rule, articles containing the LCPFAC chemicals are not exempt and would be subject to section 5(a) to the same extent as the chemicals themselves. EPA’s rulemaking builds on years of ongoing regulatory and voluntary industry efforts to phase out LCPFACs. EPA is accepting comments on the proposed rule, which would amend 40 CFR Part 721.