Guidance on Elimination of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Issued By EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released interim guidance related to the disposal and destruction of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and PFAS-containing materials. The issuance of this guidance is representative of the Agency’s ongoing efforts to protect human health and the environment. In this blog post, we take a look at PFAS and review this guidance information.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

PFAS constitute a class of synthetic chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and GenX chemicals. PFAS are chemical compounds characterized by the presence of strong carbon-fluorine bonds. Because of this, these substances are typically resistant to degradation and, as a result, tend to persist in the environment. PFAS are used extensively in many different industries, such as automotive, construction, defense, and more. Because of their wide use and their environmental persistence, human exposure is common.

PFAS can present a diversity of risks to human health. While research continues to be conducted to more fully understand the spectrum of health effects posed by these chemicals, recent studies of humans exposed to PFAS have indicated that these substances may result in several conditions, including:

  • cancer
  • fertility issues
  • liver damage
  • thyroid disease

About the Guidance

The principal focus of the recently issued guidance is on currently available techniques for the disposal and destruction of PFAS chemicals. It covers three major technological methods:

  • thermal treatment (destruction)
    • Thermal treatment techniques utilize extremely high temperature levels to achieve breakdown of chemical compounds. Incineration has been found to be an effective means of destroying certain halogenated chemicals.
  • landfilling (disposal)
    • Landfill techniques employ containment to achieve control of chemical pollutants and waste, including wastes containing PFAS. Landfills, however, have not been specifically designed or intended for the containment of PFAS.
  • underground injection (disposal)
    • Utilization of underground injection wells is a potentially useful means of preventing PFAS from migrating into and throughout the environment. This method is only designed for PFAS-containing fluids.

While it presents information on technologies available for PFAS elimination, the guidance also acknowledges that there are a number of uncertainties associated with them. More information on these methods and how they are used may be found by reviewing the interim guidance document.

It is the EPA’s goal to have this guidance help inform decision making and related efforts to manage PFAS disposal and destruction. This represents just one component of the Agency’s broader Action Plan on PFAS.

Additional Relevant Information

EPA guidance information can be an indispensable resource for a broad range of professionals, including chemical safety professionals of all types. More information regarding the recently released PFAS-focused guidance may be found on the Agency’s website. Also, you can visit the ToxPlanet website and blog regularly for additional relevant information on PFAS chemicals and countless others. Be sure to contact us and register for a Free Trial to learn how our robust suite of solutions can help address your chemical hazard information needs.