The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. said July 10 it has reached a tentative agreement to do more testing of a compound used to make fluoropolymers, as part of an Environmental Protection Agency review of the chemical's safety.
But final approval depends on Washington-based SPI addressing the concerns of EPA, environmental groups and others interested in the health effects of the compound, perfluorooctanoic acid. EPA held a public hearing on the topic July 10, and is trying to develop agreement among interested parties rather than do its own regulation.
EPA launched a review of PFOA exposure in April, after studies showed the chemical harms lab rats and that it is present in low levels in the bloodstream of people in the United States. Industry groups maintain the chemical is safe.
SPI's Fluoropolymers Manufacturers Group had submitted a detailed list of tests it would conduct, but after listening to concerns from EPA and others in the past three months, it said it will add testing for incineration and polymer degradation.
Once agreement is reached, SPI wants to sign an ``enforceable consent agreement'' with EPA. That would avoid the possibility of the agency imposing its own regulations.
SPI is trying to build consensus among environmental groups and others who live near fluoropolymer plants that the industry is doing all necessary research.
SPI President Don Duncan said it ``took a tremendous amount of work'' to reach agreement that the industry's tests will answer lingering questions.
The fact that only incineration and degradation are being added demonstrates the thoroughness of industry's previous commitments, he said.
Environmental and public health groups, however, raised concerns that the process will not explain adequately how PFOA is getting into the bloodstream.
The Center for Policy Research for Women and Families, for example, urged EPA to check PFOA levels in people living near factories where it is made or used, calling that information crucial. EPA officials said such research is beyond the scope of the current process, but said the agency may do those tests later.
And an official with the Environmental Working Group in Washington said in an interview at the hearing that EPA may not be testing enough places where PFOA has been found that could expose people, such as on vegetables and produce.
EPA officials said the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is likely to add PFOA to a list of chemicals it regularly checks for in human blood.