On January 25, 2006 , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced, via a teleconference and press release, the launch of the “2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program,” a global stewardship program designed to reduce emissions of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and related chemicals. Materials on the program can be found on EPA's updated PFOA webpage, http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/pfoa/index.htm . A summary of the voluntary program follows.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has addressed a letter to fluoropolymer and telomer manufacturers inviting them to participate in the voluntary program. Under the voluntary program, participating companies would commit to the following:
- Achievement by no later than 2010 of a 95% reduction, measured from a year 2000 baseline, in both of the following: (i) emissions to all media of PFOA, precursor chemicals that can break down to PFOA, and related higher homologue chemicals; and (ii) product content levels of PFOA, precursor chemicals that can break down to PFOA, and related higher homologue chemicals (1) and
- Work toward the elimination by 2015 of PFOA, PFOA precursors, and related higher homologue chemicals from both emissions and products.
- During the teleconference, Susan Hazen, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, clarified that the commitments would apply to both domestic and global operations.
According to an attachment to the Administrator's invitation letter:
Companies participating in this 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program will be asked to submit their year 2000 baseline numbers for emissions and product content to EPA by October 31, 2006 . To ensure transparency, companies will submit annual public reports on their progress toward the goals in October of each successive year, expressing their progress in terms of company-wide percentage achievements both for U.S. operations and for the company's global business. Companies will also provide to EPA detailed information on their progress in support of their public reports.
Although the EPA letter is silent on it, Hazen explained that EPA plans to add PFOA to the Toxics Release Inventory as a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemical. Hazen did not indicate a timeframe for this action.
EPA states in the letter that program commitments will be “in addition to a company's existing commitments to the Agency which may include research efforts, enforceable consent agreements, and memoranda of understanding.” The letter also states that “EPA is not aware of any studies specifically relating current levels of PFOA exposure to human health effects,” and during the teleconference, Hazen remarked in response to a press inquiry that EPA has no data indicating that consumers ought to be concerned about particular products.
The eight companies, with whom EPA has previously discussed the program, have been asked to respond to EPA's letter by March 1, 2006 . During the teleconference, Hazen indicated that DuPont has already agreed to participate.
During the question and answer session that followed EPA's prepared remarks, a reporter from the Washington Post asked Hazen whether companies would have to cease using PFOA as a processing aid in their manufacturing operations. Hazen responded by stating merely that participating companies would commit to eliminating PFOA from their products. Interestingly, EPA's letter acknowledges that “technological and cost issues may preclude eliminating PFOA and related chemicals entirely from emissions and products by 2015.”
The Environmental Working Group issued a press release shortly after the conclusion of the teleconference. It is available at http://www.ewg.org/issues/ pfcs/20060125/index.php .
(1) EPA defines “precursor” as a chemical that can break down to form another chemical, in this case, PFOA. For example, some residual monomer chemicals from the telomer manufacturing process such as telomer alcohols and telomer iodides may remain in the final product and break down into PFOA. ” EPA defines “higher homologue chemicals” as “[c]hemicals similar in structure to PFOA but with nine or more carbons in the chain.”