On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a comprehensive national strategy to deal with polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollution. PFAS, sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” as they don’t break down naturally and have been shown to pose a health risk to humans, are used to improve the water resilience of a product and are found in a variety of items including cosmetics, dental floss, food packaging, clothing and cleaning supplies.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the agency’s strategic roadmap for confronting PFAS contamination and noted that it was centered on three guiding strategies: increase investments in research, leverage authorities to take action now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination.

“For far too long, families across America—especially those in underserved communities—have suffered from PFAS in their water, their air or in the land their children play on,” says Regan. “This comprehensive, national PFAS strategy will deliver protections to people who are hurting, by advancing bold and concrete actions that address the full lifecycle of these chemicals. Let there be no doubt that EPA is listening, we have your back and we are laser-focused on protecting people from pollution and holding polluters accountable.”

The EPA also announced a new national testing strategy that requires PFAS manufacturers to provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS chemicals. The substances tested will be selected based on an approach that breaks the large number of PFAS today into smaller categories based on similar features and considers what existing data are available for each category. EPA’s initial set of test orders for PFAS, which are expected in a matter of months, will be selected from more than 20 different categories of PFAS. This set of orders will provide the agency with information on more than 2,000 other similar substances that fall within these categories.

For businesses in the promotional products industry, PFAS will likely appear on the restricted substance lists (RSL) of large corporations and manufacturers, along with lead, phthalates and other substances deemed harmful. Rick Brenner, MAS+, president and CEO of Product Safety Advisors, says, “PFAS will appear on an RSL. They’ve become very common and if you’re making products or selling products to a large company, they’re going to have one identifying, known harmful chemical. For our industry, as a first step, we should be asking the questions, ‘Are PFAS an element of any product I am buying for a customer to put their logo on?' and, ‘Are PFAS involved in this product in any way?’”

Included in the EPA’s strategic roadmap to deal with PFAS are timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure water is safe to drink in every community; hazardous substance designation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to strengthen its ability to hold polluters financially accountable; timelines for action—whether it is data collection or rulemaking—on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories; and a review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address those that are insufficiently protected.

The EPA’s roadmap also features increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them, and continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act. It will also publish toxicity assessments for two PFAS, hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid and its ammonium salt. These chemicals, known as “GenX chemicals” have been found in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, rainwater and air emissions. GenX chemicals are also known to impact human health and ecosystems. The EPA will use the data it collects on GenX chemicals to develop health advisories to help communities make decisions to protect human health and ecological wellness

For an overview of the PFAS Strategic Roadmap and to learn more about its key actions, click here. The EPA says that in the coming weeks, it will work to partner on the PFAS issue. The agency will be engaging with a range of stakeholders to identify solutions, including two national webinars that will be held on October 26 and November 2.