EPA Issues PFAS Test Order as Part of National Testing Strategy

April 01, 2024
The EPA has issued the fourth Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) test order requiring testing on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under EPA’s National PFAS Testing Strategy, the latest action taken under EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront contamination from “forever chemicals” nationwide.
This action orders the 3M Company and Wacker Chemical Corporation to conduct and submit testing on the physical-chemical properties of 2-(N-Methylperfluoro-1-octanesulfonamido)ethanol (NMeFOSE) (Chemical Abstract Service Reference Number: 24448-09-7), including testing on the health effects following inhalation of this chemical. NMeFOSE has been used widely in products, including clothing and carpet treatments as well as furniture coatings (paint and varnish). NMeFOSE has been found in the air and in biosolids, which are a byproduct of the water treatment processes often used on agricultural fields as fertilizer. Studies have also demonstrated that NMeFOSE can accumulate in indoor dust and air, as well as in outdoor environmental media.
“Communities across the country need information about whether or not PFAS are in our air and water, and any health risks caused by these chemicals,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “This year, we’re continuing to use test orders to gather data about the health effects of PFAS so that we can take any necessary action to protect people and the environment.”
After thoroughly examining existing hazard and exposure data, EPA has concluded that NMeFOSE may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. The potential hazards from exposure to this chemical could include damage to the nervous system and immune system, as well as cancer.  The test order will help EPA better understand the potential hazards and potential exposures associated with NMeFOSE.
The information EPA receives under this order will not only improve the Agency’s understanding of human health effects of NMeFOSE, but also potential health effects of more than 100 PFAS that are structurally similar to NMeFOSE and add to the agency’s overall understanding of this category of PFAS.
The companies subject to the test order may either conduct the tests as described in the order, or provide EPA with existing information that they believe EPA did not identify in its search, but which satisfies the order requirements.
EPA encourages companies to jointly conduct testing to avoid unnecessary duplication of tests and will also consider possible combinations of tests that cover all required endpoints to diminish the amount of time, animal subjects and costs required.
The order employs a tiered testing process, as TSCA requires. The order is effective today, March 25, 2024. The results of all the first-tier testing are required to be submitted to EPA within one year of the effective date of the order and will inform the decision as to which additional tests are necessary. The order and any data submitted in response to this order will be made publicly available on EPA’s website and in the applicable docket on the Regulations.gov page, subject to confidentiality considerations under TSCA section 14.
PFAS National Testing Strategy
In the National PFAS Testing Strategy, EPA assigned PFAS into smaller categories based on similarities in structure, physical-chemical properties, and existing toxicity data. EPA is issuing test orders for PFAS in specific categories that lack toxicity data to inform EPA’s understanding of the potential effects on human health and the environment.
As EPA continues to further develop this strategy, refine its universe and categorization of PFAS, and consider stakeholder feedback, the agency also plans to increase the weight it places on the potential for exposures when identifying specific PFAS that would require testing.
Section 4 Test Orders
Developing Section 4 test orders is a complex and resource-intensive process involving many scientific and regulatory considerations, as explained in this Overview of Activities Involved in Issuing a TSCA Section 4 Order. Given the complexity of the testing requirements, a broad spectrum of experts across the agency worked to determine testing methodology and needs, as well as address other details of drafting and issuing an order, such as assessing the economic burden of an order.
Additionally, one order often applies to multiple companies. EPA must identify these companies and their associated points of contact. To improve the transparency of the process, EPA also works to resolve confidential business information claims that could prevent EPA from publicly connecting the company to the chemical substance prior to issuing test orders.
EPA Takes Enforcement Action Against School Bus Company for Clean Air Act Violations
The EPA reached a settlement with First Student, a company that owns, operates, and stores school buses throughout the United States, including in Connecticut. EPA alleges that the company violated federal clean air standards by allowing buses in two Connecticut locations to idle for excessive periods of time. Working cooperatively with EPA, First Student reached a settlement agreement and has developed a compliance program that is intended to reduce excessive idling of school buses.
"EPA works hard to ensure that communities can enjoy clean air each and every day. Companies that operate fleets of vehicles have an obligation to follow regulations to limit engine idling. Fumes from idling engines can aggravate health conditions like asthma for people living nearby, as well as emitting pollutants that degrade air quality over a wider area, and cause climate change," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "Clean Air Act settlements, like this one, showcase our continued dedication to protecting people's health and our environment including in communities that have suffered from a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution."
EPA inspected First Student's Weston, Conn. location and its West Harford, Conn. facility, which is in an environmentally overburdened area. EPA's inspections revealed the operation of school bus motors that went over the state's three-minute idling maximum, contained in the federally enforceable Connecticut State Implementation Plan.
Under the terms of the settlement the company has agreed to pay a penalty of $96,223, and will implement various compliance measures, some of which apply in Connecticut and others that apply in additional jurisdictions where First Student operates. These measures include posting signage, training, and coaching. Also, First Student will conduct both ongoing assessments of their operations data, and consistent observations of their bus lots, in order to correct instances of excessive school bus idling.
Idling diesel engines emit pollutants that can cause or aggravate a variety of health conditions, including asthma and other respiratory diseases. The fine particles in diesel exhaust are a likely carcinogen. Diesel exhaust not only contributes to area-wide air quality problems, but more direct exposure can cause lightheadedness, nausea, sore throat, coughing, and other symptoms. Drivers, school children riding on the buses, facility workers, neighbors and bystanders are all vulnerable. Idling also wastes fuel, contributing to carbon dioxide emissions that affect climate change.
The Clean Air Act is the law that defines EPA's responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation's air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. The last major change in the law, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, was enacted by Congress in 1990. Legislation passed since then has made several minor changes.
Alabama Forklift Manufacturer Could Have Prevented 38-Year-Old Foundry Worker's Fatal Injuries
A 38-year-old worker at a Cullman manufacturing plant suffered fatal injuries after getting caught inside a molding machine, a fatality the employer could have prevented by following established safety rules, a U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety investigation found.
OSHA found that on Aug. 31, 2023, the Cullman Casting Corp. second shift production supervisor attempted to adjust a plastic film on a mold machine – meant to produce forklift counterweights – when the machine cycled, pinning the worker between the moving components inside.
OSHA investigators determined that the employer repeatedly exposed workers to safety hazards by failing to de-energize and lockout the automated molding machine while workers were performing maintenance and cleaning. Investigators found the company exposed workers to caught-in hazards by failing to do the following:
  • Develop and utilize written lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Conduct periodic inspections of lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Ensure that employees are trained on lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Ensure that employees are placing locks when conducting lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Ensure machine guarding was in place for employees working in the pit.
"This tragic incident should never have occurred," said OSHA Area Office Director Joel Batiz in Birmingham, Alabama. "Manufacturing companies use complex, high-powered, industrial-sized equipment and every precaution must be taken, and every safety procedure followed. When an employer such as Cullman Casting Corp. fails to make safety a priority, severe and sadly fatal consequences can occur, leaving family and friends to grieve."
OSHA cited the employer with six serious violations and proposed $95,981 in penalties, an amount set by federal statute.
Cullman Casting Corp is an iron foundry located in Cullman, Alabama, and a wholly owned subsidiary of North Vernon Industry Corp. Cullman Casting uses vacuum-process molding for counterbalance products.
OSHA's machine guarding and control of hazardous energy webpages provide information on what employers must do to limit worker exposures to machine hazards.
Alabama Sausage Manufacturer Exposed Workers to Deadly Hazards at Attalla Worksite
A follow-up inspection by OSHA of Dean Sausage Co., Inc. found similar workplace safety hazards as identified in a Dec. 8, 2022, inspection, allowing workers to be exposed to hazards related to lockout/tagout, machine guarding, hazard communication and blocked exits.
Issued citations and proposed penalties:  The current inspection led OSHA to cite the employer with seven repeat violations for exposing employees to struck-by and caught-in hazards by failing to develop and use machine-specific lockout/tagout procedures and by not maintaining machine guarding. In addition, Dean Sausage failed to maintain clear exits, and to implement a written hazard communication program, including worker training, for those working with hazardous chemicals. The employer also did not maintain required safety data sheets for the materials.
OSHA also cited the company with two serious violations for lacking lockout/tagout procedures to protect employees before they cleared a machine's bread cutter.
OSHA has proposed $116,153 in penalties.
In the initial 2022 inspection, OSHA cited Dean Sausage Co. for a total of 14 violations and assessed the company with more than $37,000 in proposed penalties. Established in 1955, Dean Sausage Co. Inc. employs 85 workers at its Attalla facility. The employer produces meat products, including sausage and frozen biscuit sandwiches distributed to retailers throughout the southern U.S.
OSHA's investigation is part of its National Emphasis Program to focus enforcement efforts on amputation hazards in manufacturing industries. A NEP is a temporary program that focuses agency resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries. The NEP on amputations targets industrial and manufacturing workplaces where OSHA has determined that unguarded or improperly guarded machinery and equipment played a role in employee injuries. OSHA also seeks to raise awareness of amputation hazards in the state's manufacturing industry through a concerted education and prevention effort.
"The bottom line for any company is they must keep their workers safe," said OSHA Area Office Director Joel Batiz in Birmingham, Alabama. "Employers have a legal obligation to put worker safety before profit and to do all they must to make sure every employee ends their shift safely. The fact that Dean Sausage Co. has allowed employees to be exposed to hazards for which we cited them in the past raises real concerns. Their latest failure is unacceptable, and OSHA will hold the company accountable."
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