EPA to classify some 'forever chemicals' as hazardous

Mississippi river.
(Image credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed classifying certain so-called "forever chemicals" — which are believed to have serious health effects, and can be found in hundreds of household items — as hazardous substances, CNN reports.

Though polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, will not be banned as a result, the proposed new designation is still "one the most significant actions the EPA has taken to date" in addressing the compounds, notes The New York Times.

Forever chemicals take a long time to break down, and have been known to bleed into water and soil, as well as the blood of people and animals, explains CNN. New research also suggests the substances are far more dangerous to human health than previously thought, with links to heart issues, cancers, and immune problems.

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The new EPA proposal would classify two commonly used PFAS — known as PFOA and PFOS — as hazardous substances under Superfund regulations, thereby making it easier for the government to mandate polluters pay fines for violations, as well as clean up their own hazards, CNN and The Washington Post report.

"Communities have suffered far too long from exposure to these forever chemicals," EPA administrator Michael Regan said. The new rule will "both help protect communities from PFAS pollution and seek to hold polluters accountable for their actions."

Activists have praised the new designation, but Republicans are concerned it unfairly burdens manufacturers and businesses, the Times notes.

Once the proposal is published in the federal register, the public will have 60 days to comment before the rule becomes final.

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