Press Releases

EPA Proposes Designating Certain PFAS Chemicals as Hazardous Substances Under Superfund to Protect People’s Health

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a significant action to protect people and communities from the health risks posed by certain PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” EPA is proposing to designate two of the most widely used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as “Superfund.” This rulemaking would increase transparency around releases of these harmful chemicals and help to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their contamination.

CEH and partner organizations celebrated this action that will help EPA hold PFAS polluters accountable, shifting the burden of clean up costs to responsible parties, like DuPont and Chemours, and not American taxpayers or harmed communities. Harms from PFAS are especially concerning for environmental justice communities that are often disproportionately exposed to chemical contaminants.

The proposal applies to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), including their salts and structural isomers, and is based on significant evidence that PFOA and PFOS may present a substantial danger to human health or welfare or the environment. PFOA and PFOS can accumulate and persist in the human body for long periods of time and evidence from laboratory animal and human epidemiology studies indicates that exposure to PFOA and/or PFOS may lead to cancer, reproductive, developmental, cardiovascular, liver, and immunological effects.

“I am happy to see that EPA has finally taken the first step of proposing designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERLCA,” said Tom Fox,  Senior Policy Advisor at CEH. “This action will help provide contaminated communities with information they deserve and hold polluters accountable for the cost of cleanups. There is more than enough scientific evidence for EPA to determine that the entire class of PFAS chemicals qualify for designation as CERCLA hazardous substances.  The sooner that EPA finalizes CERCLA hazardous substance designations for PFAS, the sooner that contaminated sites will be cleaned up, the sooner that it will no longer pay for polluters to continue to release them into the environment, and the sooner that companies will switch to safer alternatives.” 

“Families like mine living in southeastern North Carolina deserved actions like this decades ago,” said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear. “We’re grateful Biden’s EPA is correcting a historical harm. This is a necessary, good first step to hold chemical companies accountable for contaminating our drinking water and make them pay to clean up their mess. Sadly, our region continues to be exposed to more than just PFOA/PFOS. We need the EPA to also list all PFAS as Hazardous Substances and begin addressing the forever chemicals currently in commercial use.”

Learn more about why EPA should protect people, not polluters.