New EPA PFAS Data Misleading: Huge Amounts of PFAS Chemicals Underreported, Burned

WASHINGTON — An NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2020 has found a perceived underreporting of almost 90% of the chemicals widely accepted as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The analysis further reveals that the majority of industrial PFAS waste are incinerated as a form of “treatment”—a process the EPA has confirmed does not destroy PFAS and can continue to be detrimental for environmental and public health. 

PFAS are a large class of toxic “forever chemicals” that pose an immediate threat to air, water, and consumer product safety across the United States. The TRI incorporates the most comprehensive set of PFAS data to date and comes at the tail end of several high-profile commitments from the EPA as well as the Biden Administration to curtail the PFAS crisis. 

The following is statement from Yiliqi, Scientist and Project Manager at NRDC:

“The EPA needs to investigate the accuracy of the TRI PFAS data. The crux of the dataset is based on a narrow definition of PFAS, which would ignore nearly 90% of PFAS waste currently reported to TRI. Further, there are thousands more chemicals that are excluded from this monitoring requirement. For a comprehensive scope of the impacts of PFAS, the EPA needs to update their definition to align with scientific and international communities as well as Congress, add more PFAS substances to their monitored chemical list, and investigate why industries known to use PFAS, like textile manufacturers, are not reporting PFAS waste production.

The TRI divides PFAS waste management into several categories, with ‘treatment,’ ‘energy recovery,’ and ‘disposal or other releases’ as separate outcomes. Upon closer review of the data, the majority of PFAS in the “energy recovery” and ‘treatment’ categories are actually burned, which does not destroy the chemicals but, instead, releases them into the air and water, where it can accumulate in fenceline communities and quickly travel well beyond. Ambiguity around treatment methodologies and limitations is misleading to the public and can deter the policy reform needed to better regulate PFAS waste management.”

For more information on the analysis, read the newly published NRDC blog New EPA Data: Huge Amounts of PFAS Underreported and Burned.

Additional NRDC Resources:

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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