Sound science should be at the center of the debate when it comes to crafting public policy on the regulation of chemicals, minerals, and pharmaceuticals. This includes the “PFAS Action Act of 2021” (H.R. 2467), recently passed by the U.S House of Representatives.
If enacted, it would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expedite regulatory rulemakings for all PFAS compounds, and to designate two compounds—PFOA and PFOS—as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. The manufacturing of both compounds were voluntarily stopped by U.S. companies over a decade ago.
The bill would also require the EPA to implement a National Primary Drinking Water standard for PFOA and PFOS. The EPA currently has lifetime health advisories of 70 parts per trillion for these compounds.
Finally—and perhaps most significantly—the legislation would require the EPA to determine if thousands of other PFAS compounds in use should receive a hazardous substance designation within five years.
The Center is not concerned with the specific political or policy outcomes of this debate. When it comes to politics and public policy, we are agnostics, not advocates.
Some of H.R. 2467’s provisions are likely needed, while others may not be. That decision is now in the hands of members of Congress, who have a responsibility to enact, modify, or forego the proposed regulatory requirements based on the totality of valid scientific evidence.
While the bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain, that will not stop state legislators and regulators from enacting their own measures to regulate PFAS compounds. This inconsistent and complex regulatory patchwork quilt has resulted in a compliance nightmare for companies and a lawsuit petri dish for trial attorneys looking for the next mass tort cash cow.
While supporting measures that purportedly protect the public health—regardless of what the rigorous scientific findings might contribute—may be a good way to score political points with constituents, it is a poor way to craft public policy. As the debate rages on, the Center plans to serve as a reliable source of credible and objective scientific information for those tasked with making decisions on these complex and evolving issues.
Later this year, independent investigators will publish the results of two Center-commissioned systematic analyses of PFAS compounds. We hope those reports, along with the large existing body of scientific literature on these compounds, will help legislators make decisions informed by science, not soundbites.