US industry disposed of at least 60m pounds of PFAS “forever chemical” waste over the last five years, and did so with processes that probably pollute the environment around disposal sites, a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data finds.
The 60m pounds estimate is likely to be a “dramatic” undercount because PFAS waste is unregulated in the US and companies are not required to record its disposal, the paper’s author, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), wrote.
Still, the findings “depict a vast, unregulated, spreading web of PFAS waste disposal in the United States”, Peer said.
“These data show that we are steadily poisoning ourselves, our waters, and our food chain with extremely persistent toxic chemicals,” said Tim Whitehouse, Peer’s executive director and a former EPA attorney.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 15,000 compounds most frequently used to make products water-, stain- and grease-resistant. They have been linked to cancer, birth defects, decreased immunity, high cholesterol, kidney disease and a range of other serious health problems. They are dubbed “forever chemicals” because most do not degrade in the environment.
“There is no known way to safely dispose of PFAS and that’s the problem,” Whitehouse said.