Long-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) Action Plan Summary
- What chemicals are addressed in the Action Plan?
- Why is EPA concerned about these chemicals?
- What action is EPA taking?
- Previous Actions
- Current Actions
What chemicals are addressed in the Action Plan?
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are substances with special properties that have thousands of important manufacturing and industrial applications. The long-chain PFCs comprise two sub-categories: perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFAS) and perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFAC). The PFAS sub-category includes perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), other higher homologues, and their salts and precursors. The PFAC sub-category includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, sometimes called C8), other higher homologues, and their salts and precursors. Some of those potential PFAC precursors include chemicals known commercially as fluorotelomers.
Why is EPA concerned about these chemicals?
Long-chain PFCs are found world-wide in the environment, wildlife, and humans. They are bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans, and are persistent in the environment. They are toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests.
To date, significant adverse effects have not been found in the general human population. However, given the long half-life of these chemicals in humans (years), it can reasonably be anticipated that continued exposure could increase body burdens to levels that would result in adverse outcomes.
What action is EPA taking?
Based on EPA’s screening-level review of hazard and exposure information, EPA's action plan called for EPA to:
- Consider initiating rulemaking under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to manage long-chain PFCs. If EPA can make certain findings with respect to these chemicals (further analysis of the information will be performed as part of TSCA section 6 rulemaking), TSCA section 6 provides authority for EPA to ban or restrict the manufacture (including import), processing, and use of these chemicals. A rule addressing the PFAS sub-category could expand the reach of three Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) that the Agency has promulgated over the past decade. For example, the rule could address PFAS-containing articles. A rule addressing the PFAC sub-category could expand the reach of the 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program beyond the eight participating companies and further address the concerns for potential PFAC exposure through the use of PFAC-containing articles. EPA will develop more detailed assessments to support the TSCA section 6(a) "presents or will present an unreasonable risk" findings. If these more detailed assessments indicate that a different approach to risk management is appropriate, EPA will consider additional approaches.
- August 15, 2012 -- EPA proposed a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act to require companies to report all new uses of long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic (LCPFAC) chemicals as part of carpets or to treat carpets, including the import of new carpet containing LCPFACs, to give EPA the opportunity to review and take action, if warranted, to prohibit or limit the activity. The SNUR also adds seven perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) chemicals to an existing rule, and includes "processing" in the definition of significant new use for PFAS chemicals. Comments on the proposed SNUR are October 15, 2012. Read more.
- Evaluate the potential for disproportionate impact on children and other sub-populations. Given that human biomonitoring data have demonstrated that humans are exposed to PFCs in the womb, during infancy, and during puberty, and that animal studies have shown that the fetus and neonate are sensitive life stages to PFC exposures, EPA will consider effects to the developing fetus and children.
- Continue with the 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program to work with companies toward the elimination of long-chain PFCs from emissions and products. EPA will also continue to evaluate alternatives under EPA's New Chemicals Program and collaborate with other countries on managing PFCs.
Download the complete Long-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) Action Plan (PDF), (23 pp., 185 KB, About PDF)