(Reuters) – The Biden administration said on Friday it will propose designating certain “forever chemicals” as hazardous substances under the nation’s Superfund program, in an effort to jump-start cleanup of countless sites found contaminated by the toxic industrial compounds .
The proposal would require companies to report leaks of two of the most widely used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and pay for cleanup, and would also provide public funds for cleanup when those responsible cannot be found.
PFAS chemicals — commonly used to make household products from nonstick cookware to food packaging — have been found in dangerous concentrations in drinking water, soils and food across the country in recent years. Because the substances do not break down quickly, they can build up in the body where they have been linked to diseases ranging from heart problems to low birth weight.
“Society has suffered for far too long from exposure to these perennial chemicals,”; said Michael Regan, director of the US Environmental Protection Agency. “Under this proposed rule, EPA will both help protect communities from PFAS contamination and seek to hold polluters accountable for their actions.”
Environmental groups and some lawmakers praised the proposal as a step toward solving a wide-ranging national issue.
“With this announcement, the tens of millions of Americans who live near a PFAS contaminated site can finally rest easy knowing that help is on the way,” said US House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, a Democrat.
Representatives of US chemical manufacturers, including the America Chemistry Council, have opposed the proposal to designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous, calling it expensive and ineffective at cleaning up contaminated sites.