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The EPA proposed the Significant new use rule (SNUR) regulation by January 2023, which prevents the use of 300 per - and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS) have not been manufactured, processed, or used for several years without a complete review and assessment. These chemicals, commonly referred to as "inactive PFAS," have probably been utilized in the past in a diverse range of industries, such as surfactants, binding agents, and the manufacture of gaskets and sealants. PFAS’ don’t break down over time in the environment and these chemicals have had and continue to have harmful impacts on both human health and the environment.

The proposal demonstrates the United States Administration's intent to address the consequences of these long-standing polluters. This regulation is a critical aspect of EPA's PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

According to Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff, this proposal is a portion of the EPA's extensive plan to prevent PFAS from polluting our air, land, and water and endangering our health and the environment. "The regulation would provide essential safeguards where none presently exist to assure that EPA can bang the door shut on any risky applications of these 300 PFAS."

Former Practices

In 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) passed, thousands of chemicals that were essentially locked in under the statute and made them available for sale without any evaluation by the EPA.

Prior to TSCA's amendment in 2016, the EPA seemed to have no authority to address new chemicals, regarding which the Agency obviously lacks adequate information. Thus, lack of authority is also one of the reasons why so many chemicals, along with PFAS, were permitted into commerce without a proper evaluation. The EPA managed to complete formal reviews on only about 20% of new chemicals, before TSCA's amendment.

Regulation Proposed Comprehensive Review

Before any new chemicals are approved for commercial use, the Agency is required to conduct a formal review of their safety, under the new law. The Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) would ensure that any new uses for these older chemicals would be subjected to the most exhaustive and latest reviews.

A list of every chemical that is produced (including imported chemicals) or processed in the United States for purposes covered by the TSCA Inventory must be compiled, updated, and published by EPA in accordance with the TSCA.

According to TSCA, each chemical listed on the TSCA Inventory must be classified by the EPA as "active" or "inactive" for commercial activity. Since June 21, 2006, a chemical compound has not been produced (even imported) or processed in the United States, according to the "inactive" designation.

All PFAS that are listed on the TSCA Inventory as "inactive" and are not typically covered by a SNUR would be subjected to the proposed new SNUR. According to the proposal, companies would have to inform the EPA first before using any of these 300 substances. In accordance with the modernized 2016 law, the Agency would be needed to conduct an in-depth review of health and safety data to evaluate whether their use may introduce an unreasonable risk to the environment or human health. Also, the Agency needs to implement any necessary restrictions before resuming usage.

Wait, there is more help – PFAS Analytic Tool

The EPA has released a new Analytic Tool by January 2023, which makes PFAS testing, reporting, incidents across the US accessible to the public. The data is gathered from multiple states that are testing PFAS either based on their state-wide regulation or voluntary initiatives. The metadata for the sources used by the tool is publicly accessible. PFAS data collection is not complete, but the Agency provides access to ‘currently available data’. The Analytic Tool can be used for the following purposes.

• View information on the location and quantity of PFA production and imports.
• PFAs released in the environment and its waste management
• PFAs detection

Image Source: EPA Analytic Tool – Toxic Release data (currently available)

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