While painfully slow, federal agencies like the EPA have made progress in reducing the number of products made with PFAS. These “forever chemicals” are finally front and center for both regulators and legislators, especially as additives in household products. The next phase in the fight against PFAS? It’s packaging.
We’ve highlighted the use of PFAS in several kinds of packaging previously, especially food containers. Other industries remain fitfully adherent to the Toxic Substances Control Act. It’s somewhat ironic that, within days of Less Cancer-supported legislation on PFAS in packaging, the EPA released a notice that another company was breaking the law.
EPA Take Action Against Inhance
On December 1, the company Inhance, makings of high density polyethylene containers, must alter or stop its fluorination process by February 28, 2024. The company’s process created nine separate PFAS, three of them designated as highly-toxic. Inhance has based its defense primarily on the improvements it has already made, including a 90% reduction in PFAS by-products from its manufacturing process. It also says that since its process has been in use since before EPA regulations changes in 2015, it should be grandfathered in.
Read more: Ski Industry Works to Ban PFAS in Wax
There’s certainly precedent for allowing set practices to continue, but such allowances are the reason we’ve made such little collective progress in protecting consumers. Inhance’s containers are widely used for storing highly toxic substances like pesticides and industrial compounds, but also personal care products, cosmetics, and detergents. PFAS exposure from packaging is a real risk to consumers, and simply letting manufacturers do what they’ve always done simply isn’t enough.
In the case of Inhance, this isn’t a first-time offense. The company landed on the EPA’s radar in 2020 after mosquitocide, stored in Inhance’s containers, contaminated a city’s drinking water supply. That incident led to the EPA and other groups suing Inhance for failing to notify the government of its use or production of PFAS. One of those groups, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, has praised the EPA’s decision to take action.
However, it’s imperative that agencies like the EPA and other regulators shorten the amount of time it takes to discover a PFAS violator and actually halt their operations. The EPA first learned of these containers over three years ago, and in that time Inhance has been operating as business as usual.
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