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EPA reverses Trump guidance it said weakened 'forever chemicals' regulations

EPA reverses Trump guidance it said weakened 'forever chemicals' regulations
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a slate of actions aimed at a class of toxic chemicals called PFAS, including the revocation of a Trump-era guidance that it said weakened regulations for the substances. 

The agency additionally proposed a reporting requirement for manufacturing PFAS chemicals and finalized a rule requiring polluters to report releases of three types of the chemicals.

PFAS chemicals have been linked to health issues including cancer and immune system problems. They can be found in a variety of household goods, as well as drinking water. 

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They are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are persistent in the human body and environment and can accumulate over time. 

“These actions will help us harness the best available science to develop policies and programs that can improve health protections for everyone, including those living in historically underserved communities,” Michal Freedhoff, principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a statement.

The removed guidance, issued at the end of the Trump administration, sought to clarify a 2020 rule issued by the agency that prohibits companies from importing certain types of PFAS as part of an object’s “surface coating” without EPA approval. 

Such objects may include  automotive parts, carpets, furniture and electronic components. The guidance limited what would have been subject to the rule, providing exemptions for “unintentionally present” impurities as well as for those who process chemicals. 

The Biden administration said Thursday that the guidance “was never deemed necessary by career staff and its development was directed by political officials serving in the last Administration.”

Its new PFAS reporting proposal would require those that have made or imported PFAS chemicals since the start of 2011 and those who do so going forward to report information on its uses, quantity, disposal exposure and hazards to the agency.