The State of PFAS in the US and NYS
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been a hot-button issue over the past several years and are gaining industry attention. Federal and state regulations are continuing to evolve and the applicable treatment or remediation standards are very nuanced. Federally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been slow to implement actionable regulations because of the lack of technical information on these emerging contaminants. New York State has been proactive in implementing limits and is leading the way to protect public health. It’s important to understand what these chemicals are and their historic applications in order to know why and where these are showing up.
What are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of chemicals that have been manufactured since the 1940s. They have been used in a wide variety of applications and they are found in numerous consumer and manufactured products. Common PFAS-containing items include non-stick cookware, waterproof and stain-proof coatings, food packaging, household products, personal care products, and firefighting foam. These applications have led to PFAS being present in drinking water, wastewater, soil, and biosolids, in addition to their continued use in manufactured products.
PFAS in practice
Historically, the benefits of PFAS have been the strong chemical bonds that make them useful in many applications. The durability of the chemical is also the factor that makes it harmful to the environment and human health. These chemicals are resistant to degradation in the environment and can bioaccumulate to cause negative health effects to humans. Toxicology studies are continuing to provide further evidence that these chemicals can cause adverse health effects.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states there are more than 9,000 different types of PFAS, but some have been more widely used than others. The most extensively used and studied are PFOA and PFOS, but regulations are evolving to include more species of the chemical.
Federal action on PFAS
The EPA has been working to address these issues through the PFAS Strategic Roadmap. In line with this plan, the EPA announced four health advisories for PFAS last June. In addition, in March 2021, the EPA released an advance notice for proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) for PFAS. Future rulemaking could affect wastewater effluent limitations guidelines, pretreatment standards, and new source performance standards to address the discharge of PFAS.
Restrictions in food packaging
Effective December 31, 2022, New York State banned PFAS in food packaging containing the chemicals. No person shall distribute, sell, or offer for sale food packaging containing PFAS. Types of packaging required to comply include packages or packaging components that are intended for direct food contact and are made up of paper, paperboard, or other plant fiber materials.
Treatment for PFAS contamination is advancing, and methods of destroying these ‘forever chemicals’ are being incentivized by the growing demand to address the PFAS issue quickly. The growing concerns for adverse effects on human and environmental health are driving the necessary innovation.
Walden continues to follow the regulatory changes on federal, state, and local levels, as well as the current changes in technology required for treatment and eventually destruction. If there are concerns about PFAS in your operations, Walden is available to discuss specific facility issues and how actions can be taken to address your concerns to ensure your facility is in compliance. Give us a call at 516-701-1681 to learn more.
If you’d like to read some of Walden’s other blogs on PFAS, click here. Contact us at 516-701-1681 for additional information!