PEER and CEH File Amicus Brief in Fifth Circuit Opposing Inhance’s Attack on EPA Orders Prohibiting the Formation of Dangerous PFAS
Today, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced they have filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals opposing Inhance Technologies’ efforts to overturn strong Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) orders banning the production of long-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) during Inhance’s fluorination of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic containers. These PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” are persistent and are known to cause harmful effects, including cancer and damage to fetal development.
One substance formed by Inhance is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which EPA has determined has no safe level of exposure and has been withdrawn from use in 2015 by its major producers because of concern about its impacts on human health. PFOA has been consistently found in products packaged in fluorinated containers at parts-per-billion levels, from 33 to 1,123 times higher than the recently proposed EPA limit for PFOA in drinking water.
After years of advocacy from PEER and CEH, the U.S. EPA announced on Dec. 1, 2023 orders prohibiting the formation of PFAS in fluorinated plastic containers. However, Inhance has mounted a legal challenge to the orders and, on Dec. 12, 2023 the Fifth Circuit Court issued a stay until the completion of Inhance’s appeal, which blocks enforcement of the orders and its protections against unsafe PFAS exposure.
Inhance fluorinates hundreds of millions of containers each year that are used to package numerous consumer, commercial, and industrial products found throughout the economy. Millions of workers, consumers and communities have significant exposure to PFAS during the distribution, use, handling, disposal, and recycling of fluorinated plastic containers. People are exposed to PFAS in fluorinated containers by ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact. Many Americans use numerous fluorinated containers in their daily lives.
“EPA’s orders were supported by a plethora of scientific evidence and are necessary to protect human health and the environment,” said PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “If Inhance is allowed to continue fluorinating plastic containers, the public will be doomed to decades more of this dangerous PFAS contamination.”
“For years, CEH and PEER have advocated for the millions of people who are being exposed to these insidious chemicals called PFAS,” said Kizzy Charles-Guzman, CEO of CEH. “We are taking the next step in our legal advocacy and opposing Inhance’s unwarranted attack on U.S. EPA’s strong actions to halt Inhance’s harmful fluorination of plastics.”
Bob Sussman, former EPA official and lead counsel for the two groups, said that “it’s disappointing and troubling that in the face of EPA’s powerful risk assessment showing the unique dangers of its fluorination process, Inhance is fighting a rear-guard battle in the courts to undo EPA’s important work and continue to expose Americans to PFAS.”