For Immediate Release: Friday, January 15, 2021
Contact: Kyla Bennett 508-230-9933; Kirsten Stade firstname.lastname@example.org
EPA Confirms PFAS in Aerial Pesticides
Regulatory Loopholes Allow Massive Spread of Toxic “Forever Chemicals”
Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement that it found toxic PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) coating barrels in which widely-used pesticides are shipped raises big new public health concerns, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The true extent of this inadvertent source of PFAS contamination remains unknown, as is the number of other products similarly affected.
In a mid-afternoon press release of January 14th, EPA admitted that it discovered unspecified levels of nine different PFAS in shipping barrels for Anvil 10+10, the pesticide used in the aerial spraying programs of Massachusetts, Florida, New York, and an estimated 25 other states. That discovery may answer one question of how PFAS got into this widely used insecticide, where it is not a listed ingredient. At the same time, it raises a host of unanswered issues, including –
• How many millions of acres have been sprayed with other PFAS-laden pesticides, including herbicides used on food crops? These chemicals do not break down in the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain and human body;
• What other products are also shipped in these PFAS-tainted containers? In its statement, EPA said it “is in close communication with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Transportation (DOT) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to understand the extent and significance of the PFAS contamination,” and that these barrels “are used for numerous applications such as food packaging”; and
• Where will the PFAS-contaminated products end up? EPA urges “[s]tates that have existing stock of Anvil 10+10 … [to] red tag their inventory and hold for now.” The ultimate destination of these insecticides is of concern, given there are few disposal regulations to prevent those wastes from reaching local water sources.
“EPA’s discovery has opened a Pandora’s Box of health risks,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, whose testing of the insecticide first raised the alarms, according to the EPA statement. “Shipping containers may be a significant source of PFAS exposure through the entire U.S. agricultural sector.”
EPA has yet to directly regulate PFAS in any fashion. In the past it has relied upon voluntary industry recalls, as it has done here. Moreover, EPA has yet to announce a firm schedule for setting maximum limits on PFAS in drinking water. PFAS are associated with damage to the liver and kidneys, as well as heightened risk of testicular and kidney cancer. In the resulting regulatory vacuum, individual states have adopted their own laws and regulations.
EPA also announced it had issued a subpoena under the Toxic Substances Control Act to obtain information about the process used to coat the containers. However, absent firm standards, the ability for EPA to take direct action against PFAS-laden packages remains unclear.
“This development only underlines how inadequate and haphazard EPA’s approach to this emerging contaminant has been,” added Bennett, pointing to the approach being pursued in Europe. “All unnecessary uses of PFAS need to be banned.”