White House Office Calls for Information to Identify Data Gaps in PFAS Research and Development

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The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently published in the federal register its Request for Information to all interested parties to ultimately “identify data gaps in research and development regarding several aspects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).” OSTP has identified the five following research and development goals:

“(A) The removal of PFAS from the environment, in part or in total;

(B) The safe destruction or degradation of PFAS;

(C) The development and deployment of safer and more environmentally-friendly alternative substances that are functionally similar to those made with PFAS;

(D) The understanding of sources of environmental PFAS contamination and pathways to exposure for the public; and/or,

(E) The understanding of the toxicity of PFAS to humans and animals.”

OSTP’s strategic plan will serve as a guidepost for federal agencies that implement their own research and development plans. As of now, at least two agencies have existing research and development plans relating to PFAS: the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Strategic Science Vision and the Environmental Protection Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

In particular, OSTP asks for all interested persons and organizations to respond to one or more of the following questions:

“1. Should the USG consider identifying priority PFAS when developing a strategic plan for PFAS research and development? If so, what criteria should be used to identify priority PFAS for research and development (e.g., tonnage used per year; releases to the environment per year; toxicology or other human or environmental health concerns; national security or critical infrastructure uses)?

2. Are there criteria which could be applied across the five research goals identified above, or should specific criteria be developed for each individual research goal?

3. Based on the definition of PFAS in this RFI, what are the scientific, technological, and human challenges that must be addressed to understand and to significantly reduce the environmental and human impacts of PFAS and to identify cost-effective:

a. Alternatives to PFAS that are designed to be safer and more environmentally friendly;

b. Methods for removal of PFAS from the environment; and

c. Methods to safely destroy or degrade PFAS?

4. Are there specific chemistries and/or intended uses that PFAS provide for which there are no known alternatives at this time?

5. What are alternatives to the definition of PFAS provided in this RFI? What are the implications of these alternative definitions on possible remediation strategies?

6. What should be the research and development priorities for accelerating progress, improving efficiency, and reducing the cost of: analytical methods, detection limits, non-targeted detection?

7. What studies would yield the most useful information and address the current gaps in understanding PFAS health effects in humans (e.g., in vitro, animal toxicological, and epidemiological studies)? Which health effects should be prioritized? What additional impacts beyond health should be prioritized? Social scientific approaches are welcome in addressing this question and any others, as appropriate.

8. One challenge across all research goals is PFAS mixtures and formulations. Currently, more information is needed to understand the identity, composition, occurrence, source, or effects on human health and the environment for mixtures of PFAS found in environmental media. Additionally, more information is needed to understand the best way to remediate or destroy media contaminated with multiple PFAS. What should be the research and development priorities for accelerating progress in these areas?

9. What goals, priorities, and performance metrics would be valuable in measuring the success of National, federally funded PFAS research and development initiatives relating to:

a. The removal of PFAS from the environment;

b. Safely destroying or degrading PFAS; and

c. Developing safer and more environmentally-friendly alternatives to PFAS?

d. Mitigating negative human effects of PFAS, whether related to health or additional domains?”

Responses and comments are due on or before 5:00 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022.

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