As EPA continues to move toward identifying PFAS as Hazardous Substances, we continue to put them in the environment. Does that make sense?
Massachusetts State Representative Kate Hogan seems to make a lot of sense when she says, about the continued widespread use of the "forever chemicals" known as PFAS, that "if we don't prevent it, all we're doing is identifying and cleaning up . . . . by making prevention as important as identification and cleanup, we really are both saving ourselves, our health and also money in the future."
Representative Hogan is the co-sponsor of Massachusetts legislation that will, if it becomes law, ban the presence of PFAS in many products by the beginning of January 2026 and ban the addition of any PFAS to any product beginning in 2030 unless the addition is "unavoidable". Similar legislation is pending in other states. And, of course, a flood of federal and state court litigation continues to torment those who manufacture and use PFAS.
Meanwhile the University of Florida yesterday published a study indicating that all of us who use toilet paper are contributing between 6.4 and 80 micrograms of PFAS to the environment every year.
On the one hand, 80 micrograms per year is an amount so miniscule it literally wasn't measurable just a few years ago. On the other hand, the limits many states, and likely soon EPA, are setting as acceptable levels of PFAS in drinking water are similarly miniscule.
And that brings me back to Representative Hogan and the others calling for the prohibition of PFAS. If PFAS are as dangerous as EPA and many states say they are, why are we still using them? And if we are going to continue to use them, is the best way to deal with the unsurprising fact that they end up in our environment to spend billions of dollars trying to clean them up while we're continuing to replace them? Is the better course to treat our drinking water but otherwise let PFAS be, at least until we decide whether or not we want to continue to use them and what, if any, other real risks they present in the environment?
“In both toilet paper and wastewater sludge, 6:2 fluorotelomer phosphate diester (6:2 diPAP) was the most prevalent PFAS detected, and toilet paper usage was estimated to contribute from 6.4 to 80 [micrograms per person-year (μg/person-year)] of 6:2 diPAP to wastewater--water systems,” reads the abstract of the study, which was published March 1 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.