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Federal agencies are following through on PFAS promises so far


Exactly one year ago, the EPA announced its PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The roadmap set goals to address PFAS at the federal level. So far, most of the agencies involved have held up their promises, but there’s still more work ahead.

Since the roadmap was announced, the EPA has made more moves to address PFAS than ever before.

We’re closer to seeing national drinking water standards, two compounds being listed as hazardous substances, and a mandated clean-up schedule from the Department of Defense.

John Reeder is the vice president of federal affairs with the Environmental Working Group. He said many of the actions are overdue, but until recently, there were virtually no measures to control PFAS.

“[There was] no accountability for the polluters responsible for creating one of the world's most significant environmental contamination challenges, but thanks to the Biden administration, that's all changing,” Reeder said.

In a recent report by the Environmental Working Group, 86% of promised actions are either complete or expected to be complete by their deadlines.

Melanie Benesh is the Vice President of Government Affairs with EWG. She said the accomplishments are promising, but some agencies could do more, specifically addressing the lack of initiative from the Food and Drug Administration.

Issues concerning PFAS in consumer products like cosmetics and food packaging have not been directly addressed in the EPA roadmap.

"[The FDA has] known since the 1960s that PFAS are toxic chemicals," Benesh said. "In particular, the FDA has stubbornly refused to end the use of PFAS in food and cosmetics. Though fortunately, states have really stepped in to start filling the regulatory gap [left by the FDA]."

The US Department of Agriculture has also been relatively quiet on providing regulatory guidance on PFAS. In the EPA's roadmap, a risk assessment of PFAS in sewage sludge or biosolids is not expected until winter 2024.

Benesh said the EPA has not moved quickly enough to stop ongoing industrial releases of PFAS.

The EPA is slated to announce national drinking water standards for PFAS this winter. The Department of Defense is also expected to release its mandated clean-up schedule for contaminated sites in the coming weeks.

To see federal agencies' progress, check out EWG report card here.

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