U.S. House Passes PFAS Action Act of 2021

In late July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take major steps for the regulation of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Originally introduced in April of this year, the House recently passed this legislation by a 4:3 majority. In this blog post, we take a closer look at these chemicals and review the focus of the new bill.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

Characterized by the presence of strong carbon-fluorine bonds, PFAS are synthetic chemical compounds that strongly resist degradation and, as a result, tend to persist in the environment. Examples include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), Gen X, and more. PFAS chemicals can be found in many household products, as well as in food and drinking water. Their extensive use and environmental persistence result in frequent human exposure.

PFAS can present a wide range of human health risks. These include hypertension, kidney cancer, low birth weight and immunotoxicity (in children), testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and a variety of others. Research continues to be conducted to more fully understand the diversity of health effects and other risks posed by PFAS chemicals.

PFAS Action Act of 2021

Setting new restrictions for these chemicals, the PFAS Action Act of 2021 addresses areas ranging from drinking water to air emissions to wastewater outflow, and more. A number of key regulatory actions are required by the Act. Among these are the following:

  • Requiring the establishment, within two years, of drinking water standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • Requiring the classification, within one year, of PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances; Determining, within five years, whether other PFAS chemicals should be classified as such
  • Establishing requirements for labelling for PFAS in products
  • Creating effluent limitation guidelines for the discharge of PFAS chemicals, in accordance with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act

With its passage in the House, the bill is pending review by the Senate. It remains to be seen whether passage in the Senate will occur as easily, if at all.

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