The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced proposed measures to keep perflourinated chemicals from re-entering the U.S. marketplace.
The new measures build on previous restrictions that began in 2006 when the EPA reached a landmark voluntary pact with eight corporate giants, including DuPont, 3M and Ciba, to begin phasing out long-chain perflourinated chemicals (PFOA), which have been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals.
PFOA was widely used in manufacturing in cleaners, textiles, carpet, leather, paper and paints and wire insulation. But it is best known for its use in non-stick coatings such as Teflon. While the EPA did not recommend that consumers avoid the chemicals, the 2006 agreement virtually eliminated its use in manufacturing by stating that the companies would phase out 95 percent of PFOA by 2010, and work toward eliminating its use entirely by 2015.
According to the EPA, the participating companies have now developed more than 150 chemical alternatives to PFOA including short-chain flourochemicals, which provide the same benefits as their chemical predecessors, and do no degrade into PFOA. In a separate statement, officials also pointed to the reduction in bioaccumulation as proof that the 2006 agreement has done its job.
"CDC biomonitoring data showing a 41 percent reduction in human blood levels is evidence that the Stewardship Program has been sucessful in reducing the level of these target substances in the environment and in humans more quickly than regulation could have achieved," said Jessica Bowman, executive director of the FlouroCouncil.
This latest move by the EPA is meant to block new imports of PFOA from finding their way back into the manufacturing space.
“We will continue that progress now that all importers and other domestic manufacturers will be required to give EPA an opportunity to review and restrict uses of these perfluorinated chemicals,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
The proposed measures would require that anyone who intends to import perflourinated chemicals in products, or domestically produce or process these chemicals for new use, submit notification to the EPA at least 90 days prior to beginning activity.