PFAS: Prop 65 and Other New Developments

Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are the subject of significant federal and state regulatory  attention and two PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), have been added to the Prop 65 database of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm. Under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly referred to as Prop 65, companies must now comply with “clear and reasonable warning” requirements for all products that expose people to significant levels of PFOA and PFOS.

Prop 65 has two key compliance requirements: 1) a warning; and 2) a discharge prohibition. In the case of PFOA and PFOS, the warning requirement became effective on November 10, 2018 and the discharge prohibition will become effective on July 10, 2019. There is some uncertainty as to these two substances as California has not set a specific maximum allowable dose level for PFOA and PFOS that is deemed to provide a level below which no Prop 65 warning is required. Moreover, it is unclear if products containing PFOA and PFOS prior to November 10, 2017 are subject to warning requirements.

Given a delayed federal response to PFAS impacts, uncertainty is a critical concern for companies addressing PFAS issues in the U.S. While U.S. EPA established an advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for combined PFOA and PFOS in 2016,  the Agency for Toxics Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has yet to issue its final report and U.S. EPA has not taken any further action on its current health advisory.  As a result, a number of states including California, New York, New Jersey and Vermont, among others, have adopted PFAS regulatory standards or are in the process of doing so. States also are incorporating PFAS into new and existing investigatory and remedial actions.

What we know for sure is that companies doing business in California should carefully analyze products to determine the existence of PFOA and PFOS in order to comply with Prop 65. Since PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the U.S., it may be more likely that imported goods and products contain these substances.

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