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INSIGHT: With PFAS One-Size-Fits-All Isn’t the Answer

In Bloomberg Environment this week, Jessica Bowman, who is the Executive Director of ACC’s FluoroCouncil, makes the case for why a one-size-fits-all approach to PFAS does not make sense. She explores the value and benefits of today’s PFAS, describes the extensive science available on the health and safety of these compounds, and describes the extensive regulation of the chemistry.

Below you will find excerpts from the piece. You can read the entire feature here.

Unfortunately, innovation in chemistry and the critical role it plays in our way of life are too often overshadowed by hyperbole in today’s public discourse, most notably when it comes to the safety and use of chemicals. While scary sound bites might make for good headlines, they don’t always make for good policy. And the impression these quips can leave with the public and policymakers is often misleading.

Take for instance the latest push to ban or regulate an entire family of chemicals, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)…

Today’s fluorinated chemistries have significantly enhanced environmental and human health profiles. They underwent strict regulatory review before they went to market, which included a requirement to provide significant data and testing related to various health and environmental factors. In addition, these substances are continuously reviewed and allowed for use by regulators around the globe.

No Reason to Group

The differences in PFAS offer a clear example of why it doesn’t make sense to paint chemicals with a broad regulatory stroke. Today’s PFAS products are the product of innovation and have differing characteristics, formulations, intended uses, and environmental and health profiles. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has the responsibility for regulating the safety of chemicals, as well as regulators around the globe, recognize these considerable differences in the family of chemistries.

The science on the health and safety of newer PFAS is extensive. A large body of data has been developed by universities, government agencies, independent laboratories, and industry scientists and provided to regulators globally as part of their ongoing chemical review processes. The science supports the conclusion that today’s PFAS products do not present a significant risk to human health or the environment….

…The same is true of today’s PFAS, which were subject to rigorous scientific research requirements that included testing related to cancer, reproductive/developmental factors, systematic toxicity, bioretention, ecological endpoints, environmental fate and transport, and other factors before being they could be brought to market.

Adequately Regulated

In addition to chemical product regulation, there also are numerous laws that govern how chemicals are manufactured, used, transported, and managed. These include specific regulations for limiting emissions and helping ensure minimal exposures. In the U.S., more than a dozen federal laws and multiple federal agencies govern the safe manufacture and use of chemicals.

Grouping of PFAS and other chemicals by class would disregard this layered regulatory structure. By design, grouping these different substances together for the purposes of blanket, one-size-fits-all regulatory policies would not take into account how the chemical is used, in what amount, or whether and how long exposure occurs (if at all). This approach defies what scientists and other experts continue to determine: while chemicals can be somewhat similar, their properties can differ greatly in ways that could affect (or not) human health or the environment.

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