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Policy Changes Needed

Pollution in People Report - Chapter 2 - Reducing Your Exposure to PBDEs

PFCs have been produced, used, and disposed of essentially without regulation for the last half-century. Under current federal law, the EPA can require studies on the potential health effects of a chemical only when it already has evidence that the chemical is causing harm. Rigorous evaluation of these chemicals therefore did not start until the late 1990s, following 50 years of use. Rising levels of PFCs in the environment and increasing governmental pressure, however, have led to voluntary actions to reduce PFC production and use. In 2002, 3M ceased using PFCs for its signature product, Scotchgard, because of concerns over release of PFOS and PFOA during manufacture and use. In early 2006, the EPA, Teflon manufacturer DuPont, and seven other companies announced an agreement to reduce PFOA in emissions from manufacturing plants and in consumer products by 95% by the year 2010.

While these actions are a step in the right direction, they do not adequately protect public health from the dangers posed by PFCs. State and federal government should act to phase out PFOA as well as chemicals that break down into PFOA. The Washington State Department of Ecology should begin in 2007 by completing a chemical action plan under its program on persistent toxic chemicals to phase out PFOA. The remaining PFCs should undergo expedited review, and, if necessary, be eliminated from products.