Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Pesticide Packaging
As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) extensive efforts to address PFAS, today the agency is making new information available about EPA testing that shows PFAS contamination from fluorinated containers. Read EPA's press statement.
While the agency is early in its investigation and assessment of potential impacts on health or the environment, the affected pesticide manufacturer has voluntarily stopped shipment of any products in fluorinated containers and is conducting its own testing to confirm EPA results and product stability in un-fluorinated containers. On January 14, 2021, EPA issued a subpoena under the Toxics Substance Control Act to obtain information about the fluorination process used by the company that fluorinates the containers used by the pesticide manufacturer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why are HDPE containers fluorinated?
Information EPA currently has on fluorinated HDPE containers indicates that they are treated inside and outside through fluorination, a process that creates a chemical barrier for a pre-produced container to prevent changes in chemical composition. Using fluorous sealed technology improves container stability, and is intended to make containers less permeable, reactive and dissolvable.
2. What PFAS compounds were detected on or in the containers?
To date, testing on a limited number of fluorinated HDPE containers used by one pesticide product supplier show presence of the following PFAS compounds. Testing was performed by rinsing both the interior and exterior (when appropriate) of the container with methanol and analyzing the rinsates using a method modified from the EPA Method 537.1.
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3. In what amounts were PFAS detected?
EPA will continue to investigate and gather data on the PFAS compounds and levels that may be found in the identified product and containers.
4. What do we know about these PFAS chemicals?
EPA researchers are working to understand how exposure to PFAS may be harmful to people and to the environment. These studies allow the agency to better understand how harmful specific chemicals can be and help prioritize the agency’s work to protect public health. To learn more about the concrete steps the Agency is taking to address PFAS and to protect public health, please read EPA’s PFAS Action Plan.
EPA continues to compile and assess human and ecological toxicity information on PFAS to support risk management decisions. EPA continues to work on toxicity assessments for GenX chemicals and PFBS. EPA is also developing toxicity assessments through its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program for PFBA, PFHxA, PFHxS, PFNA, and PFDA. Draft IRIS assessments are expected in 2021, more information is available at https://19january2021snapshot.epa.gov/iris/iris-program-outlook.
EPA is applying high-throughput toxicology testing to study the toxicity of the larger universe of PFAS. Laboratory and epidemiological studies on PFOA have shown the potential for adverse effects, such as developmental, thyroid, liver, and immune system effects and cancer.
5. Should people be concerned about the possibility of being exposed to PFAS from pesticide container contamination? What about other containers?
The PFAS detections in rinsate from the tested containers does not represent PFAS concentrations in the environment or human exposure to PFAS.
EPA will be working to conduct risk assessments in collaboration with states and other parties. EPA has notified the pesticide industry and understands the pesticide industry is examining their distribution chains to identify and disclose potential areas for contamination.
As for other containers, EPA is working with other federal agencies to understand the scope of the PFAS contamination and will provide further guidance as the issue evolves.
6. When did EPA first learn of this contamination? What steps have been taken since initial PFAS discovery in the pesticide product?
On September 1, 2020, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) contacted the Massachusetts Reclamation Board, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Division of Pest Services, and other state agencies claiming that there were unspecified PFAS in a pesticide used for mosquito control. EPA Region 1 was notified that same day.
Since being notified, EPA has worked diligently in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to request samples of the pesticide product and analyze the identified product at different steps of production and manufacturing to determine whether PFAS are present, including issuing an information request to the pesticide registrant on October 5, 2020 seeking information on the affected pesticide’s production, sales and distribution.
In late December 2020, rinsates of used and unused fluorinated HDPE containers used to store and transport the pesticide product yielded results supporting that the source of contamination is associated with the fluorinated HDPE containers. EPA has been in close contact with MDAR, the pesticide registrant and the fluorinated HDPE container treatment company to discuss the issue, as well as to obtain the materials needed to test for PFAS in the product and the fluorinated HDPE containers. EPA is asking pesticide companies and entities that fluorinate containers to engage in good product stewardship to examine their distribution chains to uncover potential areas for contamination.
7. How is EPA coordinating with other federal partners to address this issue?
EPA is in close communication with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Transportation (DOT) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to understand the extent and significance of the PFAS contamination. As more information becomes available, EPA will continue to work in collaboration with other federal entities to provide guidance to states and localities that may be affected by PFAS.
8. How will EPA keep the public informed as more information becomes available?
Along with keeping close communication with federal entities, states and localities, EPA will post updates on this webpage as the issue evolves. For any stakeholder questions regarding this issue not covered in this FAQ, you are welcome to contact EPA at firstname.lastname@example.org. For any media inquiries, please email email@example.com.
Information for States
1. What advice should states and local mosquito control districts follow for making their purchasing decisions now?
States and local mosquito control districts are encouraged to contact their pesticide suppliers if there are questions about potential for PFAS in pesticide products they have purchased or intend to purchase. As the issue evolves, EPA will continue to communicate its findings to the states.
2. What are the alternatives to Anvil 10+10 for mosquito spray, and are the alternative pesticide products stored the same way?
Anvil 10+10 is one of many adulticides registered for use in public health mosquito control programs. Mosquitos pose a significant public health threat and can transmit serious diseases and viruses such as malaria, dengue virus, Zika and West Nile virus, which can lead to disabling and potentially deadly effects (such as encephalitis, meningitis and microcephaly). EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) work closely with each other and with other federal, state, and local agencies to protect the public from mosquito-borne diseases. For more information on mosquito control methods, please visit https://19january2021snapshot.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol.
Flourinated polyethylene and HDPE are used for numerous applications such as food packaging and containers for chemical storage, including pesticides. This is the first time that EPA has been aware of flourinated HDPE container use as a potential source of PFAS contamination in a pesticide. EPA is using its authorities under FIFRA and TSCA to obtain more information about the potential scope of this contamination and to evaluate whether other regulated products may be affected.
3. What should states and others do with existing stock of Anvil 10+10?
States with existing stock of Anvil 10+10 that is stored in HDPE containers should red tag that inventory and hold for now. Clarke Mosquito has informed EPA that it will reach out to all its customers regarding management of its Anvil 10+10 product.