The Biden Administration announced on October 18, 2021, that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulators will set enforceable limits on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The chemicals have been manufactured since the 1950s and are now widely detected in nearly every human. However, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding how they get into the body and what harm they cause.
The EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap is a three-year plan detailing actions to help prevent PFAS from being released into the air and food supply and to expand cleanup efforts. The agency wants to implement the roadmap prior to the 2024 Presidential election.
Craig Butt, PhD, staff application scientist in the Americas for SCIEX, believes the new roadmap is a broad and ambitious plan to tackle PFAS contamination thanks to three main objectives—research, restrict, and remediate. “The approach considers the entire lifecycle assessment of PFAS from manufacture to use in commercial and industrial products to final disposal, which helps to ensure a more comprehensive and protective strategy,” he tells Food Quality & Safety. “The roadmap also emphasizes a strong investment in scientific, evidence-based decision-making through supporting research to fill key knowledge gaps, such as exposure pathways, toxicity assessment, and remediation.”
Specific plans include testing drinking water nationwide, implementing drinking water regulations and health advisories, assessing exposure and toxicity, developing new analytical testing methods, and monitoring PFAS in fish tissues and air emissions.
“The roadmap commits to monitoring PFAS levels in fish, an important food source for many people,” Butt says. “But, more holistically, the strategy will evaluate the importance of food ingestion as a source of PFAS exposure to humans. Presumably, this will answer questions such as, is food ingestion a significant source of PFAS exposure and which foods contribute the most to our exposure? Further, monitoring PFAS in biosolids and air will help ensure that farms and the entire food system is better protected from PFAS contamination.”