Proposed Rule Would Require EPA Review for Production of 'Inactive' PFAS

February 13, 2023
A proposed rule published by EPA would require a complete agency review and risk determination before companies could resume production of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have not been made or used for many years. According to EPA, such PFAS are listed on the Toxic Substances Control Act Chemical Substance Inventory as “inactive” and were previously used as binding agents and surfactants, in the production of sealants and gaskets, and in other applications. Inactive PFAS are those that have not been manufactured, imported, or processed since June 21, 2006.
The significant new use rule, or SNUR, would require entities to notify EPA at least 90 days prior to manufacturing, importing, or processing any of the inactive PFAS subject to the rule. The proposed rule would not apply to substances for which a previous SNUR already exists. A total of 330 substances are subject to the proposed rule.
“This proposal is part of EPA’s comprehensive strategy to stop PFAS from entering our air, land and water and harming our health and the planet,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “The rule would put needed protections in place where none currently exist to ensure that EPA can slam the door shut on all unsafe uses” of the substances subject to the rule.
Comments are due by March 27. For more information, read the proposed rule in the Federal Register. The agency website provides information about risk management of PFAS under TSCA.
European Agency Makes Recommendations Regarding OELs for Chloroprene, GMA
New scientific reports published by the European Chemicals Agency include ECHA’s recommendations regarding occupational exposure limits for the substances 2-chloro-1,3-butadiene, or chloroprene, and 2,3-epoxypropyl methacrylate, which is also known as glycidyl methacrylate or GMA. According to the agency, these substances are classified under carcinogen category 1B, which means that they are presumed to have carcinogenic potential for humans based on evidence in animals. ECHA was tasked by the European Commission to evaluate exposure to these substances to assess the option of airborne OELs, other limit values such as biological limit values and biological guidance values, and notations.
Chloroprene is used in the manufacture of a number of products, including adhesives and automotive or industrial parts. NIOSH, which describes chloroprene as a potential occupational carcinogen, lists symptoms of exposure to the substance including irritation of the eyes, skin, or respiratory system; anxiety or irritability; dermatitis; alopecia; or reproductive effects. ECHA’s evaluation (PDF) found that there was not sufficient information available to identify a threshold mode of action for the carcinogenic effects of chloroprene, which the report explains makes it not possible to derive a health-based OEL. Therefore, ECHA does not propose any limit values or notations for chloroprene. However, the report includes a table illustrating the cancer exposure-risk relationship (ERR) for the substance, which was derived from animal data. The ERR assumes that a worker is exposed to chloroprene for eight hours per day, five days per week, over a 40-year working life period. For example, exposure to chloroprene at a 0.014 ppm (or 0.052 mg/m3) concentration in air would result in excess lifetime cancer risk of four cases per 100,000 exposed, according to the ERR.
GMA is primarily used in the production of epoxy polymers and vinyl and acrylic resins, and ECHA’s report (PDF) says that it is “expected to be readily absorbed following oral, dermal and inhalation exposure.” The agency proposes a skin notation for GMA because it is “acutely toxic” when it comes into contact with skin, which the report explains indicates “systemic uptake via the dermal route.” ECHA also proposes a skin sensitization notation for GMA. As with chloroprene, the agency was unable to identify a threshold mode of action for the carcinogenic effects of GMA, so the report does not propose any health-based OELs. The report includes one recommendation regarding limit values: when a binding OEL is established for GMA, ECHA recommends that the 15-minute short-term exposure limit be set not more than five times higher than the OEL value.
“This will ensure the protection of the workers, from local irritation occurring at short exposure durations,” ECHA explains.
Stakeholders are invited to comment on ECHA’s OEL proposals until March 28. More information is available on the agency’s website.
As Winter Surges, OSHA Reminds Employers of Carbon Monoxide Risks
As frigid temperatures and sleet, ice and snow blanket states from the south to the northeast, millions of Americans are facing power outages. As many turn to portable generators and other fuel-burning equipment for electricity and warmth, OSHA urges employers to take appropriate precautions to protect workers from carbon monoxide exposures in enclosed spaces.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and toxic gas that – during prolonged or high exposures – can cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting or tightness across the chest. Severe overexposure can lead to neurological damage, coma and even death.
Employers and workers who use fuel-burning equipment indoors or in semi-enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation must be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the risks increase during winter months in indoor areas tightly sealed to block out cold temperatures and wind.
In addition to portable generators and similar equipment, carbon monoxide is produced when fuel combusts in powered tools, compressors, pumps, welding equipment, furnaces, forklifts and motorized vehicles.
To reduce the risk of workplace carbon monoxide exposure, employers should install an effective ventilation system, avoid the use of fuel-burning equipment and vehicles in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, and use carbon monoxide detectors with alarms in areas where the hazard may exist. Employers should also take other precautions as outlined in OSHA's Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheet. Additional OSHA resources include videos (in English and Spanish), QuickCards (in English and Spanish) and a fact sheet on portable generator safety.
MassDEP Fines Package Steel Systems, Inc. for Environmental Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $7,360 penalty to Package Steel Systems, Inc. for violating the air pollution control and ground water discharge permit regulations at its steel building manufacturing facility, located at 15 Harback Road in Sutton. Inspections and report reviews by MassDEP personnel revealed that the company was exceeding air pollution limits contained in the company’s permit and was illegally discharging industrial wastewater to an onsite septic system.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company will pay a penalty of $7,360 and will comply with all applicable air emission limits. The company has ceased the illegal wastewater discharge. 
“Compliance with the air pollution control and wastewater regulations is absolutely necessary for companies to protect public health and the environment,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Package Steel Systems, Inc. has now addressed its wastewater violation, has committed to complying with air pollution requirements, and will pay a penalty for the noncompliance.” 
Contractor's History of Federal Safety Violations Continues
Employees working for the same local contractor at two different Sioux Falls locations avoided tragedy after facing potentially deadly electrocution and trench cave-in hazards.
On Aug. 18, 2022, inspectors with OSHA opened an inspection near the intersection of 57th Street and South Mellenberndt Place after learning a work crew employed by Siteworks Inc. of Sioux Falls had struck an overhead power line while digging trenches to install storm sewer lines. OSHA determined the company failed to take required steps to protect employees working near energized electrical powerlines from dangerous electric shock.
A day later, OSHA inspectors observed a Siteworks employee installing water lines while they worked in an unprotected trench at 41st Street and Valleyview Road. Inspectors found Siteworks failed to protect workers as required against trench collapses and cave-ins – which claimed the lives of 39 workers in 2022 – when thousands of pounds of soil can bury or crush workers in seconds.
OSHA determined Siteworks Inc. failed to protect its work crews at both sites from known hazards as they replaced municipal sewer and water lines. The agency issued two violations, one willful and one serious, and proposed $85,005 in penalties.
"To understand Siteworks Inc.'s serious disregard for their employees' safety, consider they narrowly avoided a group of workers being electrocuted on Thursday and left another worker unprotected from the deadly risk of trench collapse on Friday," explained OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "We will not tolerate the brazen willingness of this employer to endanger their workers and will hold them accountable for their inactions. Siteworks has provided excavation services for more the 25 years and is well aware of industry and OSHA safety requirements."
"Contractors who continually ignore safety requirements are gambling with their workers' lives in return for a profit," Stanley added. "Federal workplace safety regulations and industry-recognized methods are intended to keep workers safe and make sure they are able to safely finish their day's work and return home."
OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a competent person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards, and have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter.
OSHA's trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions. including a safety video.
Missouri Company Exposes Workers to Potentially Lethal Carbon Dioxide Levels
A federal workplace safety investigation at a Lone Jack cattle processing plant – now cited seven times by inspectors for endangering workers since March 2020 – found employees exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide.  
Dry ice used to keep meat at safe temperatures emits the carbon dioxide gas. Excessive exposure to carbon dioxide can cause headache, dizziness, breathing difficulty, tremors, confusion, and potentially, death. Long-term health effects may surface months or years later.
Investigators with OSHA allege that – despite knowing hazardous levels of carbon dioxide existed – ZMDR, LLC, which operates as Republic Foods, did not put an employee monitoring program in place or implement effective engineering controls to limit workers' exposure to the dangers.
In September 2022, OSHA measurements showed the company allowed employees to be exposed to carbon dioxide ranging from 7,100 to 10,000 parts per million, far exceeding the OSHA permissible exposure level standard of 5,000 parts per million. OSHA cited the company in November 2020 for allowing the same hazard to exist at the Missouri processing plant.
"Exposing workers to high levels of carbon dioxide can cause serious illnesses and even death," explained OSHA Area Director Karena Lorek in Kansas City, Missouri. "Republic Foods failed to increase employee monitoring or change engineering controls to reduce the exposure."
OSHA proposed $573,913 in penalties to Republic Foods after inspectors identified two willful, four repeated, and seven serious safety and health violations. In addition to exposing workers to hazardous levels of carbon dioxide, federal inspectors found the company exposed workers to slip, trip and fall hazards, failed to make sure required machine guarding was in place, and violated electrical workplace safety standards.
In all, OSHA has issued the company citations for 35 violations in five previous inspections from its 2020 opening through May 2022. An additional inspection remains open at the plant.
Failure to Follow Federal Safety Standards Leads to Explosion
Federal investigators have determined that the employer of a 25-year-old welder – who suffered fatal injuries in an explosion at a Flora work site in July 2022 – could have prevented the tragedy by following federal workplace safety standards.
OSHA learned the explosion occurred during welding operations while the work crew employed by W.S. Red Hancock, Inc. replaced old metal tanks with fiberglass ones at a saltwater disposal site for oil and gas fields.
The explosion sent seven of the company's employees to local hospitals, including the welder who died as a result of his injuries six days later.
"The terrible loss of a young worker's life is a reminder of how volatile and dangerous welding and cutting work can be," said OSHA Area Office Director Courtney Bohannon in Jackson, Mississippi. "W.S. Red Hancock failed to follow established safety procedures, leaving a family, friends and co-workers to grieve a preventable loss of life and the other injured workers to deal with the aftermath."
OSHA's investigation led the agency to issue a citation to W.S. Red Hancock, a Bentonia oilfield contractor, for willfully failing to fill the saltwater disposal tank with water, or to thoroughly clean, ventilate and test the tank for flammable substances. OSHA also cited the company with serious violations for the failing to:
  • Instruct workers about unsafe conditions and regulations for working around equipment containing flammable substances
  • Make provisions for prompt medical attention for workers exposed to explosion hazards
  • Have valid certifications available that confirmed a person on site had first-aid training and that the closest infirmary or medical facility more than 10 minutes away
  • Remove or protect movable fire hazards near welding operations and flammable substances
  • Ensure employees working in a basket aerial lift used or utilized fall protection
EPA Conditionally Approves Plans to Remove Dangerous Chemicals from Refinery on St. Croix
EPA has conditionally approved plans to safely remove dangerous chemicals from systems at the refinery on St. Croix. These plans are part of a legally binding agreement EPA entered into on December 5 requiring Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation LLLP (PHRT) to remove anhydrous ammonia, liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and amine solutions that currently pose risks at the facility. EPA will oversee the work, which will begin with preparation work starting this month. Repairs to the ammonia system are scheduled to begin in early March, and chemical removal is scheduled to begin in early April and expected to be complete sometime this summer.
“This is a critical step forward in safely removing harmful chemicals from the facility and away from the community and workers,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia.EPA will be there every step of the way, providing oversight of the safe removal to ensure people’s protection. We will provide the public with updates and make real-time air monitoring data available to the community.” 
EPA discussed, reviewed and approved the detailed plans for work associated with the agreement that will begin with removal of ammonia. PHRT contractors will remove the anhydrous ammonia by transferring the ammonia to specially designed shipping containers. The contractors will then ship these containers off island for sale or proper disposal and will purge and treat any remaining ammonia vapors from the system under closed conditions to prevent vapors from escaping. EPA has approved the plan to remove the ammonia, which provides PHRT, and contractors make repairs to the system before beginning the removal work.
After the ammonia removal work is complete, contractors will transfer the LPG into shipping containers for shipment off-island for sale as useable product or for proper disposal, if necessary. Contractors will depressurize any remaining hydrocarbon vapors in the containers and in process equipment and piping and transfer it to a thermal oxidizer for destruction. The contractors will use nitrogen to remove any residual hydrocarbon vapors from the system, which will again be routed to the thermal oxidizer. EPA has approved the plan to remove the LPG, on the condition that PHRT and its contractors apply for and comply with necessary air permits from the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) associated with the removal of the LPG. 
To remove the amines, contractors will transfer the amine liquid containing hydrogen sulfide into appropriate shipping containers that will be shipped off-island for sale or proper disposal. EPA has approved the plan to remove the amine liquid, on the condition that PHRT and its contractors accept EPA’s removal plan recommendations, make repairs to the system before beginning the work, and apply for and comply with necessary air permits from DPNR associated with the removal of the LPG.
Once liquids have been transferred from the amine units, the contractors will chemically clean and rinse the equipment and purge all amine units with nitrogen gas until the system is free of all residual amine, hydrogen sulfide and hydrocarbon.
EPA will oversee the work to remove the chemicals and will conduct around-the-clock air monitoring to ensure people’s safety. EPA will display the real-time air monitoring results on a website that will be linked from EPA’s refinery on St Croix Website. The air monitors will measure chemicals associated with the substances required by the order to be removed. EPA will place air monitors at the refinery fence line and at locations within the nearby community. EPA emergency response experts will also use handheld monitors to conduct air monitoring within communities, as appropriate.
PHRT and its contractors developed the plans to remove chemicals after careful consideration of multiple removal options and with input from EPA technical and legal experts. EPA has already had experts on the ground for parts of the plan development, will oversee the work at the facility, and will have emergency response experts working nearby through the duration of the work. EPA will continue to coordinate closely with the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands emergency management and environmental experts. The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) is the coordinating agency of the U.S. Virgin Islands for emergency readiness and response.
EPA plans to host a community meeting in the coming weeks to discuss these plans. EPA has a toll-free hotline at (866) 462-4789 for general inquiries and to report odors. Environmental emergencies, such as spills and releases, should be reported to the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802, which is staffed 24 hours a day by the U.S. Coast Guard. The public should call 911 for all life-threatening situations.
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