23 July 2020

New Restrictions on Certain PFAS May Affect U.S. Imports

As part of the increased of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new use restrictions that may limit imports of certain products into the United States.

Last year, in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, Pub. L. No. 116-92 (Dec. 20, 2019), Congress required EPA to finalize amendments to certain PFAS restrictions originally proposed in 2015. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA can issue Significant New Use Restrictions (SNURs) for specific chemicals to restrict their uses and applications. In June 2020, under the deadline issued by Congress, EPA amended two SNURs — one for certain perfluoroalkyl sulfonates, 40 C.F.R. § 721.9582, and one for long-chain perfluroalkyl carboxylate chemical substances (LCPFACs), 40 C.F.R. § 721.10536. The SNUR for perfluoroalkyl sulfonates covers 278 chemicals, and the SNUR for LCPFACs covers 219 substances.

TSCA provisions usually provide an exemption for imported articles, but the amended SNURs do not provide that exemption in certain circumstances. For perfluoroalkyl sulfonates, the article exemption is waived for carpet imports, meaning that imported carpets that contain the perfluoroalkyl sulfonates must receive EPA approval prior to import by filing a Significant New Use Notice (SNUN). For LCPFACs, the prior rule already waived the article exemption for carpets, and the new rule waives the article exemption for a subset of substances used in surface coatings. While domestic manufacturers using almost 500 PFAS substances may be more familiar with these requirements, importers that use the substances in carpets and surface coatings should pay special attention to these changes.