EPA Denies TSCA Section 21 Petition Seeking Section 4 Test Rule for 54 PFAS
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 22, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the reasons for its denial of a petition requesting it to require health and environmental effects testing on 54 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 86 Fed. Reg. 6602. The petition sought issuance of a rule or order under TSCA Section 4 compelling The Chemours Company (Chemours) to fund and carry out this testing under the direction of a panel of independent scientists. EPA states that it finds the petitioners have not provided the facts necessary for it to determine for each of the 54 PFAS that “existing information and experience are insufficient and testing of such substance or mixture with respect to such effects is necessary to develop such information.” After “careful consideration,” EPA denied the TSCA petition for the following reasons:
- Insufficient Information and Experience: According to EPA, the petition does not set forth the facts necessary to demonstrate that there is “insufficient information and experience” for each of the 54 PFAS. The petitioners state, in part, “[f]or the 54 PFAS, the sufficiency of available information should be determined by comparing available data with the known adverse effects of other PFAS. The goal should be to conduct a scientifically sound assessment of each of the 54 chemicals for the critical toxic endpoints that have been identified in studies on [perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)], [perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)] and other well-characterized studies.” EPA states that the petitioners do not provide evidence that they conducted an assessment to support a finding of insufficient information and experience, however;
- Testing of Such Substance or Mixture with Respect to Such Effects Is Necessary to Develop Such Information: According to EPA, the petitioners do not demonstrate “testing of such substance or mixture with respect to such effects is necessary to develop such information.” EPA finds that the petitioners failed to address ongoing testing and data collections for some of the 54 PFAS, thereby failing to set forth facts that are necessary to establish there is a need for the testing sought in the petition. According to EPA, this research may provide information that overlaps with testing the petitioners requested, which would render the information unnecessary under TSCA Section 4(a)(1)(A)(i)(III);
- Class-Based Approach to Testing: TSCA Section 4(h)(1)(B)(ii) “encourage[s]” EPA to consider “the grouping of 2 or more chemical substances into scientifically appropriate categories in cases in which testing of a chemical substance would provide scientifically valid and useful information on other chemical substances in the category.” EPA states that it “is currently investigating ways to group similar PFAS by likeness into subcategories for purposes of research, data collection, hazard determinations, and other activities.” EPA notes that it collaborated with the National Toxicology Program (NTP) “to construct a PFAS screening library subset composed of 75 PFAS on a structural category basis and considerations such as structural diversity within a category, data availability, and read-across category-level weight (e.g., value of substance for anchoring read-across trends within a category, serving as an analog); four of the 54 PFAS the petitioners identify are included in this subset.” While the petitioners mention this effort, they “incorrectly state that just two of the 54 PFAS the petitioners cover are included in the EPA testing.”
- Practicability of National Academy of Sciences Oversight: The petitioners also request that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) oversee all aspects of the proposed testing program. EPA states that it “finds such an oversight arrangement is not within the scope of what a TSCA section 21 petitioner can request when seeking the initiation of a rule or the issuance of an order under TSCA section 4.” Furthermore, according to EPA, projects and studies must meet certain conditions for the NAS to accept private funding. EPA concludes that it is not in a position to require NAS to oversee the testing requested by the petitioners, and the petitioners provide no administrative or organizational procedures for implementation.
- Selection of PFAS for Health and Environmental Effects Testing: The petitioners divide the 54 PFAS at issue into Tier 1 substances “for which there is known human exposure based on detection in blood, food or drinking water,” and Tier 2 substances “for which human exposure is probable based on detection in environmental media.” According to EPA, the petitioners do not set forth facts showing that for all 40 PFAS it ranks as Tier 2 substances “human exposure is probable based on detection in environmental media” or that “a strong inference of exposure can be drawn from their presence in surface water, stormwater, wastewater, sediment, groundwater, soil, private wells, and/or air emissions,” however.
- Scientific Standards: EPA states that it “finds the petitioners have not evaluated the quality of the data they have provided or indicated how they conducted their searches, evaluated the quality of the sources, or indicated what gaps were located and then explained why the specific tests requested, as compared to others, would provide the data being sought.” According to EPA, such an evaluation is necessary for EPA to conduct the considerations under TSCA Section 26(h).
- Vertebrate Testing: TSCA Section 4(h) requires that EPA reduce and replace the use of vertebrate animals in the testing of chemical substances under TSCA Section 4. EPA states that it must consider “as appropriate and to the extent practicable and scientifically justified, reasonably available existing information, including (i) Toxicity information; (ii) Computational toxicology and bioinformatics; and (iii) High-throughput screening methods and the prediction models of those methods.”
More information on the TSCA Section 21 petition is available in our October 29, 2020, memorandum, “TSCA Section 21 Petition Seeks Section 4 Test Rule for 54 PFAS.”