PEER and CEH Applaud EPA’s Decision to Protect People from PFAS that Leach from Plastic Containers
EPA Orders Inhance Technologies to Stop Exposing Millions of Americans to Dangerous PFAS in Fluorinated Plastic Containers
Washington, DC — Today, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to prohibit Inhance Technologies from producing per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) during its fluorination of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic containers. This decision, if implemented, will protect millions of Americans from daily exposure to these dangerous substances that cause harm to health at extremely low levels of exposure.
EPA discovered PFAS in containers fluorinated by Inhance after testing arranged by PEER found high levels of PFAS in a widely used pesticide, Anvil 10+10, in 2020. Further testing conducted by EPA in 2021 determined that the PFAS was leaching from the plastic containers into the pesticide and confirmed widespread PFAS contamination of other fluorinated products.
After EPA failed to take action to require Inhance to stop production of PFAS during the fluorination process, PEER and CEH notified the company and the Agency in October 2022 that they would file suit to enjoin Inhance from unlawfully manufacturing these toxic chemicals and putting the health of consumers and workers at risk. In response to the notice, EPA finally filed suit against Inhance in December 2022, as did PEER and CEH. The two cases were later combined in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The PFAS found in fluorinated containers include nine long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) substances subject to EPA’s July 2020 Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Among these substances is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a poster child for the PFAS crisis, which EPA has found to be a human carcinogen in drinking water at any level of ingestion. For over three years, Inhance produced these PFAS during fluorination in violation of the SNUR.
After EPA notified Inhance that it was not in compliance with the SNUR, it belatedly submitted Significant New Use Notices (SNUNs) as required by TSCA. After reviewing the evidence submitted by Inhance and others, including PEER and CEH, EPA concluded that Inhance’s fluorination process posed unreasonable risks to human health and the environment and that Inhance must cease its manufacturing process.
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, and disposal of fluorinated plastic containers. People are exposed to PFAS in fluorinated containers by ingestion, breathing and skin contact. Many Americans use numerous fluorinated containers in their daily lives.
PFOA, which was phased out by its major manufacturers in 2015, has been consistently found in products packaged in fluorinated containers at levels from 33 to 1,123 times higher than the recently proposed EPA limit for PFOA in drinking water.
“This is a huge step forward in eliminating PFAS from consumer products and a win for human health and the environment,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “EPA has known about PFAS leaching from these containers for three years, and it’s a relief that EPA is finally taking action to halt this dangerous practice.”
“For years, CEH and PEER have sounded alarms about these PFAS-laden containers that touch every sector of the U.S. economy and advocated tirelessly for the health of workers, consumers, and the environment who are being exposed to these insidious chemicals,” said Kizzy Charles-Guzman, CEO of CEH. “We are pleased EPA is taking action based on the strong science and our steadfast legal advocacy.”
Bob Sussman, former EPA official and lead counsel for the two groups, said that “EPA’s strong action on fluorinated containers addresses head-on a huge threat to public health resulting from clearcut violations of the law. This action sends a powerful message that regulators and the public will no longer tolerate the uncontrolled build-up of PFAS in every-day products and human blood, and companies like Inhance that continue to recklessly expose Americans to PFAS will be held accountable.”