February 14, 2019

EPA PFAS Plan Falls Short of a Real Commitment to Chemical Safety

Statement by Genna Reed, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (February 14, 2019)—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released its Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan, a proposal to begin the process for dealing with this dangerous class of chemicals. The proposal doesn’t set a strong safety standard or make clear how the EPA will protect against future contamination, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). 

Below is a statement by Genna Reed, the lead science and policy analyst with the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“Safeguarding people from dangerous PFAS chemicals is long overdue. Millions of families— especially near current or former military sites—are being exposed these dangerous chemicals.

“Unfortunately, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has only laid out a small, tentative step toward considering how to manage this widespread threat. While starting the process of designating enforceable drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS and classifying them as hazardous substances is necessary, it’s not enough. This proposal doesn’t mean the EPA will take serious action—it could just kick the can down the road for years, leaving vulnerable communities at risk.

“The EPA must set enforceable, science-based standards to protect communities across the country from PFAS exposure, rather than continuing to place the burden on states and local communities to clean up the mess created by industry and government inaction. EPA must have a clear path for cleanup and safe disposal of contamination that does not just displace the problem to communities who are already bearing a significant chemical burden.

“The real test will be how this EPA implements the plan and holds polluters accountable, as President Trump’s political appointees have a pattern of ignoring science and public health. Enforcement of health, safety, and environmental standards has fallen, political appointees have weakened a number of important rules, and conflicts of interest abound.  The official who would be charged with implementing part of this plan once confirmed, Peter Wright, has worked at DowDuPont, a major source of PFAS contamination. Trump administration appointees have to rebuild trust after their attempts to bury a study of PFAS health impacts.

“The administration has to put more clarity and substance to this plan—and prove that they’ll put public health, not narrow industry interests, first. Before the Senate confirms Wheeler as administrator, senators need to consider whether he’s treating this matter with the urgency and attention it demands.”

Last year, UCS released “A Toxic Threat,” an analysis of PFAS contamination at current and former military sites.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.