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PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP)

Version 2 of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP 2.0) is now available.

All states, territories and the Australian Government have collaborated to develop a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) version 2.0. The final PFAS NEMP 2.0 was agreed by Heads of EPAs in October 2019.

The PFAS NEMP 2.0 is now being implemented in the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions, subject to Ministerial approvals as set out in the plan.

The document has incorporated feedback from the public consultations held in early-to-mid 2019 on the draft PFAS NEMP 2.0.

The original PFAS NEMP (version 1) is also available.

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What are PFASs?

PFASs (per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances) are manufactured chemicals that have been used widely in a range of specialty applications such as:

  • some types of fire-fighting foams
  • some industrial processes, such as metal plating and plastics etching
  • some photo-imaging applications, such as X-ray films
  • aviation hydraulic fluid
  • the manufacture of some non-stick cookware and other products
  • some fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications
  • some food packaging.

Industry has phased out some PFASs from use in certain consumer products.

There are many different types of PFASs, with the best known examples being perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, known as PFOS; perfluorooctanoic acid (sometimes referred to as pentadecafluorooctanoic acid), known as PFOA; and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid, known as PFHxS​.

PFASs and the environment

The release of PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS into the environment is an emerging concern globally, because these chemicals are highly persistent, bioaccumulate, can move long distances in the environment, and are linked to adverse impacts on some plants and animals. They can accumulate in the bodies of animals, particularly those that breathe air and consume fish (such as dolphins, whales, seals, sea birds, and polar bears), increasing significantly in the blood and organs of animals higher up in the food chain.

Recently, PFAS contamination has been found at a number of sites, including where fire-fighting foams containing PFAS have been used. At some sites, PFASs have moved over time from the contaminated soil, and contaminated surface and ground water, and migrated into adjoining environments.

Laboratory studies on animals have identified negative effects on their reproductive, developmental and other systems. Because of the persistence of these chemicals, environmental exposures can occur over long time periods.

What is being done to address PFAS contamination?

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

All Australian governments, including state and territory governments, are sharing information on PFAS contamination with the aim of managing the potential impacts to environment and human health.

The Department has been undertaking four significant streams of work on PFASs:

Hunter River Estuary Ramsar site and chemical contamination

The Hunter Estuary wetlands, near Newcastle in NSW, were designated as a Ramsar site in 1984. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, signed in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that aims to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and promotes their wise use. There are currently 169 Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, and 2 280 designated Ramsar wetlands around the world.

Designation of a Ramsar site requires the Contracting Party to maintain the ecological character of the wetland. If the ecological character of a site is subsequently considered to have changed or be likely to change as a result of human activity, it must be reported to the Convention and measures put in place to reverse the change. The NSW Government, who manage the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site, notified Australia’s Ramsar Administrative Authority (the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment) of a potential change in the ecological character of the site, possibly resulting from chemical contamination. In response, an independent investigation was commissioned in November 2017 to determine whether the site has changed or is likely to change in character as a result of chemical contamination. The scientific investigation has been completed and was made publicly available on the Department’s website in November 2019. A description of the next steps that will be undertaken is also available on this website. For further information, please refer to the Frequently asked questions section.

Further information about the Hunter River Estuary Ramsar Site is available at:

Draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance

Note that where any elements in the PFAS NEMP and the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance overlap, the PFAS NEMP takes precedence.

The draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance is a policy document to assist Australian Government agencies to assess and manage PFOS and PFOA contamination. It provides a nationally consistent framework for diagnosis and action on environmental contamination.

The draft Guidance was a significant contribution to joint work by state and territory environment protection agencies and the Australian Government in developing the PFAS NEMP 1.0.

It is critical that we have an aligned and effective regulatory approach to address this issue right across Australia.

The draft Guidance considered the relevant international standards and recent science for PFOS and PFOA. It is largely based on two existing, nationally-agreed frameworks that are used widely for other chemical contaminants: the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality and the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (as amended in 2013).

The draft Guidance includes technical draft default guideline values for both PFOS and PFOA which were developed in 2015 as part of updates to the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (Water Quality Guidelines). The Department of Agriculture leads this process. At the time of release of the draft Guidance, the PFOS and PFOA default guideline values were technical drafts and yet to be communicated as final under the Water Quality Guidelines.

When reading the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance, please note:

  • Freshwater default guideline values are not regulatory standards but are intended to assist the relevant management agencies to achieve long-term water quality objectives.
  • Freshwater default guideline values are environmental guidance values and are not intended to be applied for the purposes of protecting human health. Health protection guidelines, including enHealth health reference values serve this purpose.
  • There can be significant but valid differences in the magnitude of environmental and health protection values for several reasons. These may include the increased sensitivity of some animals compared to humans when exposed to similar environmental concentrations. Also, the levels of exposure will differ between some animals and humans. For example, a fish living in contaminated water is likely to have higher exposure than a person who occasionally drinks contaminated water.
  • The draft Guidance has no regulatory status and it does not replace existing legal requirements, including those under occupational health and safety law.

Download a copy of the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance

Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance on Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) (PDF – 642.8 KB)
Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance on Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) (DOCX – 268.79 KB)

Why is there a focus in the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance on PFOS and PFOA instead of all PFASs?

The draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance focusses on PFOS and PFOA. The reasons for this approach include:

  • Most research undertaken on PFASs internationally, and in Australia, has focussed on PFOS and PFOA due to their frequent occurrence in the environment, persistence and bioaccumulation.
  • PFOS and PFOA can also be the chemical breakdown endpoint of other precursor products.
  • PFOS and PFOA are the most commonly encountered PFAS in the environment and wildlife.
  • Information on other PFASs, of which there are several hundred known, is much more limited. Not all PFASs may have the same effects or the same potencies.
  • Effective management of PFOS and PFOA may help address potential contamination where other PFASs may also be present.

Why are PFAS guideline values for fresh water different from the drinking water values?

Guideline values to protect human health and the environment are developed using methods designed to address the specific sensitivities of the organisms they are protecting (for example, humans compared to fish).

Human exposure is generally intermittent because the main source of these chemicals for people is from drinking water and food. For animals that live in water, however, exposure can occur 24 hours a day.

In addition, some species are more sensitive to certain chemicals than others. The environmental water levels use a method that incorporates data from a wide range of species and can include studies that are multigenerational. Consequently, some of the values will ensure protection of the most sensitive species.

PFAS National Environmental Management Plan

The per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) provides governments with a consistent, practical, risk-based framework for the environmental regulation of PFAS-contaminated materials and sites. The PFAS NEMP is to be an adaptive plan, able to respond to emerging research and knowledge while allowing for the implementation of actions in a way that becomes ‘business as usual’.

Two versions of the PFAS NEMP have been developed by the National Chemicals Working Group of the Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand, at the request of all Australian environment ministers.

The PFAS National Environmental Management Plan contains information including on:

  • communication and engagement
  • PFAS monitoring and assessment
  • evaluation of sites for contamination, and prioritising where action needs to occur
  • sampling contaminated material and the techniques for measuring PFAS concentrations
  • environmental levels that indicate the need for action
  • how to deal with sites contaminated with PFAS
  • waste and its transport and treatment
  • information sharing across Australia
  • future research and work to support the Plan and its revisions
  • evaluating the Plan’s effectiveness and reviewing it as new information becomes available

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

The Stockholm Convention

The Department of the Environment and Energy leads work within the Australian Government on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The objective of the Stockholm Convention is as follows:

Mindful of the precautionary approach as set forth in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the objective of this Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants. 

These chemicals warrant global action because of their persistence, bioaccumulation, potential for long-range transport and adverse effects on human health and / or the environment.

Parties to the Convention, including Australia, participate in the listing process for certain chemicals and consider the actions necessary to give effect to the final decision.

The 2009 PFOS Amendment

PFOS, its salts, and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF) were listed for restriction in 2009 under Annex B of the Convention. Australia is considering ratification of this decision, which has triggered Australia’s domestic treaty making process. The treaty making process includes a range of steps, such as:

  • analysing the policy and management options for import, export, use, and disposal of PFOS
  • preparing a regulation impact statement and a national interest analysis, including possible implementation measures, for managing PFOS
  • tabling the regulation impact statement and national interest analysis for consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

Further information on this process is available at: Nine new POPs and the treaty making process.

PFOS Regulation Impact Statement for Consultation

The Department has prioritised treaty-making processes to inform a decision by the Australian Government on whether to ratify the listing of PFOS. This includes preparation of a Regulation Impact Statement for consultation: National phase out of PFOS – Ratification of the Stockholm Convention amendment on PFOS. The Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was released for public consultation for approximately four months. The consultation period closed on 26 February 2018. Comments on the RIS were sought from all stakeholders including state, territory and local governments, industry, and the wider community. The submissions to the public consultation are now available. Stakeholders are welcome to contact the Department to discuss the RIS.

Additional supporting information

The Regulation Impact Statement is informed by extensive technical, scientific and regulatory analysis. It draws on a wide range of research and analysis previously commissioned by the Department, including the following reports:

  • Cost benefit analyses relating to the ratification of the amendments to list four chemicals on the Stockholm Convention: Cost benefit analysis report – Final report, Marsden Jacob Associates, September 2015
  • Update of 2011 and 2012 Analytical Information for PFOS: Final Report, Infotech Research, 11 September 2014
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Executive Summary Report, Infotech Research, 19 February 2013
  • PFOS Control Measures: Cost Benefit Analysis, Essential Economics, February 2013
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Part 1 – Industry Profiling Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Part 2 – Implementation Options Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Technical Advice on the Use, Management, Disposal and Treatment of PFOS and PFOS Containing Wastes – Effectiveness of PFOS Alternatives Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Technical Advice on the Use, Management, Disposal and Treatment of PFOS and PFOS Containing Wastes – PFOS Disposal Methods and Services Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • The Development of Methodolog(ies) for Identification and Segregation of Articles Containing Hazardous Chemicals (PBDEs and PFOS), Australian Environment Agency, 26 May 2011

Copies of these report are available on request. Readers should be aware that these reports reflect the author(s) views and understandings at the time they were written. In some cases, new information has come to light which has necessitated changes to the analysis within the RIS. These reports do not necessarily represent the views of the Australian Government, the Minister for the Environment and Energy, or the Department. Publication does not in any way constitute endorsement of the views of the authors. The Department does not verify the information contained in these reports and makes no representation or warranty about the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained in these reports.

PFOA and PFHxS

Perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as pentadecafluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and PFOA-related compounds were nominated for listing on the Stockholm Convention in 2015. Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), its salts, and PHFxS-related compounds were nominated for listing in 2017.

The process to list a chemical under the Convention has four stages: three technical review stages and a decision-making stage. The Convention’s technical subsidiary body, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), undertakes the technical review stages. The fourth and final stage, which is the decision to list on the Convention or not, can only be undertaken by the Convention’s decision-making body, the Conference of the Parties.

Australia will continue to participate actively in the Convention’s processes and in addressing any domestic implementation requirements that may follow.

Links to other Commonwealth agency initiatives on PFASs

Why do Australian guidelines differ from other international standards?

International standards can differ between countries for a variety of reasons, including different methodologies and different environmental conditions. The standards may also be intended for different purposes, such as levels to trigger action, compared to levels that are protective over the short term, compared to levels protective over the long term.

What is the United Nations advice from the Stockholm Convention about PFOA and PFOS?

Further information can be found at: Nine new POPs and the treaty making process.

PFOS, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride were listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for restriction in 2009. Australia is considering ratification of this decision, which requires a domestic treaty making process.

The process to list a chemical under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has four stages: three technical assessment stages and a decision-making stage. The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) is the expert committee responsible for the three technical assessment stages. If a chemical passes these first three stages, the POPRC may recommend that it proceed to the fourth stage, i.e. consideration of the listing by the Conference of the Parties.

PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds were nominated for listing on the Stockholm Convention in 2015 and have now passed three of the four stages.

The POPRC’s conclusions at the first three stages were:

  • In 2015, the POPRC decided that PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds met the screening criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation, potential for long range transport, and evidence for adverse effects.
  • In 2016, the POPRC decided that these chemicals are likely, as a result of their long range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted.
  • In 2017, the POPRC adopted a risk management evaluation of these chemicals and recommended that the Conference of the Parties consider listing them in Annex A or B to the Convention, with specified exemptions.

PFHxS, its salts and PFHxS-related compounds were nominated for listing under the Convention in 2017 and have now passed one of the four stages.

The POPRC’s conclusions at the first stage were:

In 2017, the POPRC decided that PFHxS, its salts and PFHxS-related compounds met the screening criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation, potential for long range transport, and evidence for adverse effects.

Full text of the POPRC decisions on PFOA:

2015

2016

2017

The POPRC decision on PFHxS is yet to be published. Full text of the proposal on PFHxS considered by the POPRC:

Frequently asked questions

PFASs and the environment

What are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and what are they used for?

Perfluorooctane (per-floo-row-ok-tane) sulfonate (sul-fon-ate) (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic (per-floo-row-ok-tan-oh-ik) acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane (per-floo-row-hecs-ane) sulfonate (PFHxS) are three of the many types of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Because they are heat resistant and film-forming in water, some have also been used as very effective ingredients in fire-fighting foams.

PFASs are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been widely used, globally, since the 1950s in the manufacture of household and industrial products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, and for other specialised applications. PFASs have been used in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection, food packaging, some industrial processes and fire-fighting foams (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam – AFFF – products).

Fire-fighting foams containing PFAS have been used in fire training drills and emergencies by the public and private sectors in Australia and worldwide for more than three decades. The Australian Government has worked since 2002 to reduce the use of certain PFASs.

Why have PFASs become a concern in Australia?

Concern about PFAS exposure is emerging globally – not just in Australia – and many countries have discontinued, or are progressively phasing out, their use.

The release of PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS into the environment is an emerging concern globally, because these chemicals are highly persistent, bioaccumulate, can move long distances in the environment, and are linked to adverse impacts on some plants and animals. They can accumulate in the bodies of animals, particularly those that breathe air and consume fish (such as dolphins, whales, seals, sea birds, and polar bears), increasing significantly in the blood and organs of animals higher up in the food chain.

Laboratory studies on animals have identified negative effects on their reproductive, developmental and other systems. Because of the persistence of these chemicals, environmental exposures can occur over long time periods.

Recently, PFAS contamination has been found at a number of sites, including where fire-fighting foams containing PFAS have been used. At some sites, PFASs have moved over time from the contaminated soil, and contaminated surface and ground water, and migrated into adjoining environments.

We understand communities potentially affected by PFAS contamination are concerned about how this may affect them. Their wellbeing is our absolute focus and we will work closely with them to provide advice and assistance as quickly as possible.

Chemical contamination and the Hunter River Estuary Ramsar site

What is the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site and why is it important?

The site, approximately 7-12 km north of Newcastle on the central coast of NSW, is one of 65 internationally recognised wetlands in Australia. It includes parts of the lower Hunter Estuary, including Fullerton Cove and the adjacent land areas. The site was listed under the Ramsar convention in 1984 for its role in: supporting threatened species, including the Estuary Stingray, the Green and Golden Bell Frog and the Australasian Bittern; supporting a diversity of waterbirds, including migratory species listed under international agreements; and regularly supporting at least 1% of the population of Eastern Curlew and Red-necked Avocet. Further information about the Ramsar wetland is available at the Australian Wetlands Database.

What is the Formal Assessment and why was it conducted?

As a signatory to the Ramsar Convention, Australia is required to report to the Ramsar Secretariat any human-induced change or likely change in ecological character of a site since it was listed and take steps to address that change. As a first step in assessing possible change in ecological character, a formal assessment of any impacts is undertaken to provide independent scientific verification.

This assessment was commissioned by The Department of the Environment and Energy, in collaboration with NSW government agencies and the Department of Defence.

The assessment was triggered by the detection of PFAS contamination at the Department of Defence RAAF Base at Williamtown and off-site in the surrounding area and drainage system.

NSW government agencies notified Australia’s Ramsar Administrative Authority that they believed there was a strong likelihood that PFAS had caused a change in ecological character of the Ramsar site.

To ensure the report provide a comprehensive assessment of potential contaminants, the scope of the investigation included a broad range of chemicals.

The assessment was completed in April 2019.

Is the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site contaminated by hazardous chemicals?

A range of chemicals, have been found in the Fullerton Cove area of the Ramsar site and are appearing in the food chain.

However, it is not possible to categorically determine whether there has been a change in ecological character due to chemical contamination from chemicals historically used near the site.

This is because there is insufficient comparison data.

It remains possible that chemical contamination may lead to a future change in the ecological character of the site.

What impact could chemical contamination have on the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site?

The critical components of the site’s ecological character most likely to be affected by chemical contamination are shorebirds and the green and golden bell frog.

It is considered likely that some chemicals are bio-accumulating in migratory shorebirds foraging in the intertidal mudflats particularly in the Fullerton Cove area and Stockton Sandspit.

Based on an analysis of the data available, the chemicals of primary concern at the Kooragang component of the Ramsar site were identified as lead and PFOS.

Despite the significant data gaps that exist, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the site has been potentially impacted by a number of contaminants.

Collection of additional site data, particularly for other potential contaminants, would be required to determine whether chemical impacts have resulted in a change in the ecological character of the Ramsar site.

Does this have an impact on human health?

The Formal Assessment only considered the potential impacts of chemical contamination on the ecology of the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site and did not consider human health impacts.

What is the Australian Government doing next to address potential chemical contamination of the Hunter Estuary Ramsar Site?

Significant data gaps that affected the assessment of contaminant levels and associated risk to critical components, processes and services within the Ramsar site included the impacts on waterbird resources (e.g. invertebrates, food sources, habitat). Site specific information on these impacts will need to be collected to determine future management of the site.

The NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment, in collaboration with the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, the Department of Defence and the NSW EPA will develop an action plan by mid 2020 to address the most significant knowledge gaps around the potential causes of ecological change and options for managing these. This plan will be implemented over the next three years to address the data gaps identified in the Formal Assessment.

How is the Australian Government meeting its international Ramsar commitments?

The Australian Ramsar Administrative Authority (within the Department of the Environment and Energy) will consider whether remedial action is necessary to maintain the ecological character of the Ramsar site following completion of the action plan.

Where can I get more information?

Further information can be obtained by:

  1. reading the executive summary or the complete report available at the Environment Wetlands Database; or
  2. by contacting Ms Leanne Wilkinson at the Department of the Agriculture Water and the Environment (leanne.wilkinson@awe.gov.au; 02 6274 2657).

Source: Environment.gov.au

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Regulatory news

PFAS NEMP 2.0 now in action

A second version of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan has been released by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

All states, territories and the Federal Government collaborated to develop the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) version 2.0.

The environmental management of the group of manufactured chemicals known as PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) is a high priority for environmental regulators around Australia. 

The PFAS NEMP 2.0 provides new and revised guidance on four areas, environmental guideline values, soil reuse, wastewater management and on-site containment, that were identified as urgent priorities in the first version of the NEMP.

This new guidance, as well as important clarifications regarding the intent of some of the PFAS NEMP 1.0 material, was developed by the National Chemicals Working Group across 2018 and considered by Heads of EPAs and Environment Ministers in late 2018.

The Department stated that PFAS NEMP 2.0 is now being implemented in the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions, subject to Ministerial approvals as set out in the plan.

“The document has incorporated feedback from the public consultations held in early-to-mid 2019 on the draft PFAS NEMP 2.0,” the Department stated.

The PFAS NEMP establishes a practical basis for nationally consistent environmental guidance and standards for managing PFAS contamination. 

It represents a how-to guide for the investigation and management of PFAS contamination and waste management.

The first version of the NEMP, known as NEMP 1.0, was published in February 2018.

The PFAS NEMP 2.0 states that the widespread presence of PFAS in the environment in Australia and around the world is a result of its unique properties, which have led to it being widely used for many decades. 

“PFAS are persistent and highly resistant to physical, chemical and biological degradation. Consequently, PFAS are found in humans, animals and the environment around Australia,” the PFAS NEMP 2.0 states.

“Addressing the wide range of issues associated with PFAS contamination, including the management of PFAS contaminated materials, represents a challenge for us as environmental regulators.”

Source: Waste Management Review

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Incinerators may spread, not break down PFAS

Credit: David Bond/Bennington College
The Norlite hazardous waste incinerator abuts a public housing complex in Cohoes, New York.

Preliminary data show soil and water near New York facility are contaminated

New data suggest that commercial incineration of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) doesn’t break down these hardy chemicals. Instead, it spreads them into surrounding areas.

Soil and surface water near an incinerator in Cohoes, New York, that has burned firefighting foam containing PFAS are tainted with these persistent substances, preliminary data released April 27 by Bennington College show.

20200427lnp5-pfoa.jpg

In early March, a team of professors and students from the Vermont college traveled about 50 km (31 miles) from their campus to Cohoes, where they collected soil and surface water samples near the incinerator. A commercial laboratory analyzed the samples for the presence of PFAS.

The PFAS found in the samples are the same chemicals that were formerly used in firefighting foams, notably perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), says David Bond, a professor at Bennington College.

The new data suggest that incineration of the PFAS-containing foam at the Cohoes incinerator is not breaking down the persistent chemicals but is “redistributing them into nearby poor and working-class neighborhoods,” Bond says.

“It’s the very definition of foolhardy to try to keep burning these things,” Bond says of PFAS. “By design, they resist thermal degradation.”

The sampling was part of research that the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted, Bond says. Investigators found the early results alarming and significant for public health so they opted to release them before publication. “It’s not ethical to sit on data like that,” Bond adds.

Norlite, a company that makes a ceramic aggregate material, operates the Cohoes incinerator, burning hazardous waste to fire two kilns. Norlite has voluntarily stopped accepting and processing firefighting foam, pending research by the US Environmental Protection Agency, says a statement from Tradebe an environmental services company of which Norlite is a subsidiary. Tradebe points out that Norlite burned the PFAS-containing foam in accordance with permits from the EPA and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

The US military and nearby states have sent PFAS-containing firefighting foam to the Norlite plant. This incinerator is one of several across the US that environmental activists are asking a federal judge to shut down. A federal law enacted in December requires the Department of Defense to ensure that the incinerators it sends its PFAS materials to actually break down these persistent compounds.

Source: cen.acs.org

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Fire foam grace period

The grace period for phasing out fluorinated firefighting foams in South Australia ended on 30 January, and their use is now prohibited without an exemption.

Fluorinated foams contain PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkalyl substances, which have also been used in a range of everyday domestic products including non-stick cookware, fabric stain protectors, and food packaging.

South Australia was the first state to ban PFAS in firefighting foams, announcing the change on 30 January 2018.

Industry was granted a two-year grace period to help it meet the requirements of the ban.

Seven sites, including large fuel stores and defence facilities, have applied for exemptions for an initial period of three years. Six have been granted, and the seventh is currently being processed.

The transition to fluorine-free firefighting foams can be a complex one at large sites, as they can have kilometres of piping to clean out or replace, and safety must not be compromised during the changeover.

The EPA is satisfied that if the sites are operated and managed in accordance with the conditions of the exemptions, it is unlikely environmental harm could occur.

All operators who were granted exemptions were required to enter into an EIP with agreed milestones to ensure the transition progresses.

Source: www.epa.sa.gov.au

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White House Moves to Weaken EPA Rule on Toxic Compounds

WASHINGTON – The Trump White House has intervened to weaken one of the few public health protections pursued by its own administration, a rule to limit the use of a toxic industrial compound in consumer products, according to communications between the White House and Environmental Protection Agency.

The documents show that the White House Office of Management and Budget formally notified the EPA by email last July that it was stepping into the crafting of the rule on the compound, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, used in nonstick and stain-resistant frying pans, rugs, and countless other consumer products.

The White House repeatedly pressed the agency to agree to a major loophole that could allow substantial imports of the PFAS-tainted products to continue, greatly weakening the proposed rule. EPA pushed back on the White House demand for the loophole, known as a “safe harbor” provision for industry.

Pushed again in January, the agency responded, “EPA opposes proposing a safe harbor provision, but is open to a neutrally-worded request for comment from the public” on the White House request.

A ‘national priority’

The rule is one of the few concrete steps that the Trump administration has taken to deal with growing contamination by PFAS industrial compounds. The EPA has declared dating back to 2018 that consumer exposure to the substances was a “national priority” that the agency was confronting “aggressively.”

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, who obtained the documents revealing the White House intervention, and public-health advocates say the White House action was led by Nancy Beck, a former chemical industry executive now detailed to President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers.

In a letter sent Friday to the EPA, Carper charged the White House pressure amounts to unusual intervention in what had been the EPA’s in-house efforts to regulate imports tainted with the compound. Trump has nominated Beck to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a government panel charged with protecting Americans from harm by thousands of kinds of consumer goods.

Asked about the White House actions, EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said in an email that “consulting with other federal agencies on actions is a normal process across government,” and that “EPA is often required to engage in an interagency review process led by OMB.”

“It is routine for the agency to receive input from all of our stakeholders, including our federal partners,” Schiermeyer wrote.

The EPA did not respond to a question about whether Beck led the White House intervention. Emails sent for comment to the White House, the White House Office of Management and Budget and Beck were not immediately answered.

Carper obtained pages of back-and-forth proposed changes, redline drafts and other communications between the White House Office of Management and Budget, the EPA and others on the draft rule. No authors are listed in many of the final rounds of White House edits, drafts and proposals and EPA’s responses.

Carper wrote to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Friday to object to the White House push for weakening of the rule, newly revealed in the documents. Carper said it appeared that Beck, who was moved to the White House from a top regulatory job at the Trump EPA, “sought to make it more difficult for EPA to use its authority … to protect Americans from these harmful substances.”

Raising the technical bar

While thousands of kinds of PFAS compounds are still in use in the United States, the new EPA rule would set up agency oversight of imports of products that use a few kinds of the compounds that manufacturers agreed to phase out in this country starting in 2006. Those versions remain in production in some parts of the world.

In addition to the safe harbor loophole, another change sought by the White House would raise the technical bar for EPA to consider blocking any of the tainted products.

The agency agreed to rewrite the rule to include a third White House request, narrowing the range of imported products that would fall under the rule.

The official public comment period for the current form of the rule ends Friday, moving the proposal close to crafting of its final form. Congress, impatient for the Trump administration to start bringing the PFAS compounds under federal regulation, has ordered the administration to get a final rule out by mid-summer.

Even if the rule goes out in its current form, applying to fewer kinds of product imports, “it would certainly be better than where we are without it,” although “scaled back significantly from what it was originally,” said Richard Denison, lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund advocacy group, and a longtime monitor of the EPA’s regulation of toxic substances.

But if the final rule includes the other two key changes being pushed by the White House “it could even do more damage than good,” Denison said.

Industries also would be likely to push for those two exceptions in regulations of future substances, Denison said. “Those two provisions would establish precedence that the EPA has never used for 40 years.”

Array of health problems

Industries produce thousands of versions of the man-made compounds. They are used in countless products, including nonstick cookware, water-repellent sports gear, cosmetics, and grease-resistant food packaging, along with firefighting foams.

Public health studies on exposed populations have associated them with an array of health problems, including some cancers, and weakened immunity. The advent of widespread testing for the contaminant over the past few years found it in high levels in many public water systems around the country. The administration initially sought in 2018 to suppress a federal toxicology warning on the danger of the compounds, then publicly vowed action.

Source: www.heraldglobe.com

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Denmark just became the first country to ban PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ from food packaging

(CNN)Denmark will be the first country to ban PFAS chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, elevated cholesterol and decreased fertility, from food packaging, starting next year.

PFAS substances, sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment, are used to repel grease and water in packaging for fatty and moist foods such as burgers and cakes.What are PFAS chemicals, and what are they doing to our health?

“I do not want to accept the risk of harmful fluorinated substances (PFAS) migrating from the packaging and into our food. These substances represent such a health problem that we can no longer wait for the EU,” Denmark’s Food Minister Mogens Jensen said in a statement Monday.

PFAS chemicals are a family of potentially thousands of synthetic chemicals that are extremely persistent in the environment and in our bodies. PFAS is short for perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and includes chemicals known as PFOS, PFOA and GenX.

They are all identified by signature elemental bonds of fluorine and carbon, which are extremely strong and what make it so difficult for these chemicals to disintegrate in the environment or in our bodies.

Under Denmark’s new regulation, baking paper and microwave popcorn bags, for example, will be required to be manufactured without any PFAS.

“We congratulate Denmark on leading the way for healthier food and hope this will encourage similar action across the EU, the US and worldwide,” said Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute and the Department of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley.FDA confirms PFAS chemicals are in the US food supply

“Given the potential for harm, we must ask if the convenience of water and grease resistance is worth risking our health,” Blum said.

PFAS chemicals have been manufactured since the 1940s and can be found in Teflon nonstick products, stains and water repellants, paints, cleaning products, food packaging and firefighting foams.

These chemicals can easily migrate into the air, dust, food, soil and water. People can also be exposed to them through food packaging and industrial exposure.

A growing body of science has found that there are potential adverse health impacts associated with PFAS exposure, including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression and cancer.Health agencies to assess chemical exposure in 8 US communities near military bases

In a statement, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said that the substances were very difficult to break down in the environment, and some of them accumulate in humans and animals.

The ban covers the use of PFAS compounds in food contact materials of cardboard and paper. The Danish government said it would continue to be possible to use recycled paper and paper for food packaging, but said PFAS compounds must be separated from the food with a barrier which ensures that they don’t migrate into the food.

PFOS and PFOA are the two most-studied PFAS chemicals and have been identified as contaminants of emerging concern by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the United States by 3M, the main manufacturer, starting in 2000. In 2006, PFOA began to be phased out as well. PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured or imported in the United States, but similar “replacement chemicals for PFOA and PFOS such as GenX, may be just as persistent,” Susan M. Pinney, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, told CNN earlier this year.

The European Food Safety Agency said it is reassessing the risks PFAS pose to human health.CNN’s Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.

Source: CNN

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The NSW Government PFAS Investigation Program

NSW has a nation leading, state-wide PFAS investigation program underway to identify the use and impacts of legacy PFAS.

The EPA is leading an investigation program to assess the legacy of PFAS use across NSW. With the assistance of the NSW PFAS Technical Advisory Group, which includes NSW Health, Department of Primary Industries and the Office of Environment and Heritage, we provide impacted residents with tailored, precautionary dietary advice to help them reduce any exposure to PFAS.

Current investigations are focused on sites where it is likely that large quantities of PFAS have been used. The EPA is currently investigating PFAS at these sites:  

View the full interactive map here

Sampling and analysis

The EPA is collecting samples of soils and/or waters for analysis for PFAS. The EPA is also looking for exposure pathways that may increase people’s contact with the chemicals, such as bore and surface water usage.

If significant levels are detected and human or ecological exposure is likely, a more detailed assessment will be undertaken.

The EPA will work with the occupiers and owners of these sites, or the responsible parties, to clean-up the site, where necessary.

Timeframes for the investigation

The initial investigations can take approximately six months, with further testing undertaken where required. 

Test findings are made available throughout the investigations.

More information is available on the NSW EPA PFAS investigation process page.

Release of the National Environmental Management Plan for PFAS 

The PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP) provides a clear, coherent and nationally-consistent approach to the environmental regulation of PFAS in Australia. 

The NEMP includes a practical and risk-based framework including guidance on the storage, re-use and disposal of contaminated material, as well as guidance on site assessments and remediation that governments can use to manage and regulate PFAS in their jurisdictions. 

The Plan reflects the current state of knowledge and has been designed to adapt to local circumstances, emerging priorities and as further information about the chemicals becomes available.

Environment ministers agreed in November 2016 that all jurisdictions have a critical role to play in developing nationally consistent standards. Coordinated by the Victorian Environment Protection Authority, all State and Territory Heads of Environment Protection Authorities, and the Australian Government worked to develop and adopt the NEMP. 

Consultation on version 2 of NEMP 

The Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand (HEPA) and the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) are also working together to develop version 2 of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP Version 2).

HEPA’s National Chemicals Working Group is leading the development and consultation process on the PFAS NEMP Version 2 Consultation Draft, which will inform the finalisation of PFAS NEMP Version 2. To view the consultation draft and to have your say, see the EPA Victoria website.

Working with our stakeholders

The NSW Government is committed to working closely with all relevant government agencies, to closely monitor the progress of investigations, and to keep local communities informed. Government agencies include local councils, NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Health, NSW Food Authority, and where necessary the Commonwealth Department of Defence, and Commonwealth Department of Health.

In NSW the polluter pays for and manages any clean-up required. Although the NSW Government cannot regulate Defence sites, it has outlined expectations that Defence will carry out investigations in a timely manner that is consistent with the EPA’s requirements and processes.

More information

Source: www.epa.sa.gov.au