Environmental Group Estimates Twelvefold Increase in Suspected Industrial Dischargers of PFAS

Nearly 30,000 new industrial sites are identified as potential PFAS dischargers

The Environmental Working Group recently released new analysis that dramatically increases an earlier estimate of the number of manufacturers and users of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that may be releasing them into the environment, including drinking water sources.

EWG’s new estimate, based on a review of newly available government data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, found 29,900 industrial sites that are known or suspected of using toxic PFAS, including:

  • More than 4,700 using PFAS for electroplating and polishing
  • More than 3,000 petroleum stations and terminals
  • More than 2,300 chemical manufacturers
  • More than 2,200 metal product manufacturers
  • More than 2,100 commercial printing facilities
  • More than 1,800 plastics and resin manufacturing sites
  • More than 1,500 paint and coating manufacturers
  • More than 1,200 semiconductor manufacturers
  • More than 1,000 electric component manufacturers

EWG previously identified 2,501 facilities that were already reporting industrial dischargers to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory — a federal database of toxic chemical releases by industry — and were known or suspected of discharging PFAS into air and water. The updated map includes an expanded list of EPA-identified industries suspected of using PFAS, and also includes facilities that had not previously reported industrial waste releases to the agency.

“It’s very troubling that so many companies can and may be dumping their PFAS waste into the air and water, given everything we know about the serious health impacts of PFAS, even at very low levels,” says David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. “Federal and public knowledge of where PFAS are being used and released into the environment is woefully inadequate to protect health.”

PFAS are a large family of fluorinated chemicals, some of which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, immune system damage and other serious problems.

Currently, there are no EPA standards limiting PFAS discharges by these companies into the air and water. Congress is considering legislation that would place limits on PFAS discharges into water supplies. The Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act, introduced by Rep. Chris Pappas (D-New Hampshire), was included in H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the Senate.

“To address the PFAS contamination crisis, we need to turn off the tap of PFAS pollution,” says Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs. “We should not be making an already enormous public health emergency even bigger. The Senate must include the Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act in the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

Some states, including Michigan, have begun to address PFAS releases by manufacturers. The Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act would accelerate EPA efforts to set standards for PFAS releases for nine key industry categories, including manufacturers of paint, paper, plastics, electrical components, textiles and chemicals, as well as petroleum stations, metal finishing and electroplating companies.

More than 200 million American could be drinking water contaminated with PFAS, according to EWG estimates. So far, PFAS have been confirmed in the drinking water of more than 2,300 communities.

For now, only the companies can confirm whether they are releasing PFAS into the environment, including the amount being discharged into air and drinking water sources. But Congress recently directed the EPA to add some PFAS compounds to the Toxic Release Inventory, which requires manufacturers to publicly report their PFAS releases. That data will become public in the fall.



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