On September 29, 2021, the EPA released its validated methodology for detection of 28 PFAS compounds in “oily matrices, such as pesticide products formulated in oil, petroleum distillates, or mineral oils.” In the announcement for the EPA PFAS testing method, the EPA notes that “the new method is intended to help pesticide manufacturers, state regulators, and other interested stakeholders test oily matrix products for PFAS and join the effort in uncovering any possible contamination.”
While a noteworthy development, the timing of the announcement is also one that anyone with an interest in PFAS matters may find interesting, as there was a blitz of regional and national media coverage of PFAS contamination from pesticides and pesticide containers only a few months ago. The relevant takeaway from this should not be whether the EPA acted as a direct reaction to the media coverage (it almost certainly did not), but rather, another example of the powerful influence that media can have in spotlighting PFAS issues, which in turn may hasten legislative and regulatory action.
EPA PFAS Testing Method
The EPA PFAS testing method recently released received little fanfare, likely given how nuanced of an application it holds. The oily matrix method is modified from EPA Method 537.1, a method that is mainly used for drinking water and was previously used in analyzing PFAS in fluorinated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers. The new method is intended to help pesticide manufacturers, state regulators, and other interested stakeholders test oily matrix products for PFAS and join the effort in uncovering any possible contamination.
The EPA went on to note “through close collaboration with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, EPA used this oily matrix method to analyze three stored samples of mosquito control pesticide products (Permanone 30-30 and PermaSease 30-30) and obtained samples directly from the product line from the pesticide manufacturer. After thoroughly analyzing the samples and conducting an in-depth quality assurance and quality control process, the Agency determined that none of the tested samples contained PFAS at or above the Agency’s method limit of detection. To date, the only PFAS contamination in mosquito control pesticide products that the Agency has identified originated from fluorinated HDPE containers used to store and transport a different mosquito control pesticide product (Anvil 10-10).”
Prior Media Attention On Similar Issues
On December 1, 2020, a Boston Globe article front page article detailed the recent discovery of PFAS in specific types of pesticides used throughout the state for mosquito control purposes, raising concerns about potentially tainted pesticides, the pesticide containers, and the risks posed to human health. Similar articles quickly appeared in other parts of the country, as well, with similar information. National press outlets such as CBS quickly picked up the story, as well. In New England, no less than six follow up Boston Globe articles, an article by WBUR (Boston’s NPR outlet), and articles and news coverage by local news stations followed through the first half of 2021. Similar media attention was given to the issue in other parts of the country, as well.
Media As a Powerful Engine For PFAS Awareness
While there is no suggestion or evidence of any sort of EPA circumvention of its normal study and procedure before releasing approvals for testing methods (and to be clear, this article is in no way suggesting that), the lesson from the EPA PFAS testing method announcement is that companies that have PFAS concerns absolutely must follow media related to applicable PFAS topics, regardless of any slant, spin, or perceived bias. Time and again, in both the PFAS realm and with respect to other chemicals of concern, companies and interested parties alike have seen a pattern that often repeats itself – increased media coverage leads to increased citizen awareness, which leads to increased pressure on legislators, which leads to legislative action, which gradually increases pressure on regulators and federal level politicians to act. The EPA PFAS testing method example is but one microcosm of what has already been playing out with respect to PFAS for years on numerous other issues – from drinking water regulations to CERCLA regulations to firefighting foam bans (just to name a few).
Companies with PFAS compliance or liability risk concerns must not ignore the frequency with which relevant PFAS topics find their way into the media. Instead, companies should see the coverage of these issues as a signal to in earnest begin a full compliance check for PFAS issues that pose real risks to a company’s financial stability.
CMBG3 Law is following judicial, legislative, administrative, and scientific developments relating to PFAS. More information about the services we can provide, including risk assessments, to ensure your business is ready for any intersection with these substances can be found on our PFAS Litigation page.
Our attorneys have been at the forefront of PFAS issues, including giving presentations as to the future waves of litigation stemming from PFAS issues. For more information, please contact the Chair of our PFAS – Toxic Torts Team: John Gardella.