Late summer this year has brought a surge of activity related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research office reported at an industry conference last week that it was evaluating ways to divide PFAS compounds into categories for purposes of risk assessment and risk management. This aligns with the approach supported by industry groups but conflicts with demands from environmental advocates that EPA study each compound separately. Because of the complexity and number of individual PFAS molecules, which number in the thousands, categorization would likely expedite the review process.
A group of 21 Democratic senators is pressing the Senate Committee on Appropriations to appropriate over $20 million for EPA regulatory and research work on PFAS in fiscal year 2021, including funds for EPA to study whether exposure to PFAS exacerbates the effects of COVID-19. The committee has yet to release its proposal for EPA funding for fiscal year 2021. The $2 million request for research on PFAS and COVID-19 follows on a statement from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that PFAS could hamper immune system response, thereby undermining the ability of patients to fight the novel coronavirus.