IPC and Partners Foresee New Industry Burdens, Limited Benefits from EPA’s Proposed PFAS Reporting Rule

By Kelly Scanlon, Director, Environment, Health and Safety Policy & Research, IPC 

On September 27, IPC submitted comments on a proposed rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on reporting and recordkeeping requirements for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). IPC coordinated with its electronics industry members as well as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) to prepare a consolidated response.

Some PFAS have uses in electronics manufacturing processes and products, and thus the rule has significant potential to affect electronics manufacturers and importers. Specifically, the rule would require manufacturers of PFAS and manufacturers (including importers) of articles containing PFAS (e.g., components and finished electronics goods) in any year since 2011 to report information to EPA regarding the "uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards” of the chemical substance. The EPA has defined PFAS to include thousands of different chemical substances for which reporting and recordkeeping would be mandatory.

Although the proposed regulation could reduce the production and use of PFAS in nonessential applications, we believe that the reporting requirements would disproportionately burden electronics article manufacturers and importers, without yielding abundant or useful information to achieve the EPA’s goals.

For complex articles with global, multi-layered supply chains, it is extremely difficult for article manufacturers and importers to obtain information about traceable chemical substance content. Simply put, there is a limited ability to connect with and obligate all supply chain partners to reliably and accurately collect and report data on potentially thousands of chemical substances, which can be used in any number of different electronics manufacturing processes, parts, and components.

As such, IPC strongly recommends the exclusion of all electronics article manufacturers and importers from the proposed rule. To ensure the expedited reporting of useful data, we suggest that the EPA instead target reporting requirements to PFAS manufacturers, importers, and formulators and exclude electronics article manufacturers and importers. However, if electronics article manufacturers and importers remain within the scope of the rule, the EPA should implement a phased-in approach requiring a specific subset of PFAS to be added incrementally over time, based on data gathered from PFAS manufacturers, and with established de minimis thresholds for reporting. And regarding historical data, reporting should only include what is known as of the effective date of the final rule (e.g., limiting PFAS reporting to currently identified substances of concern or declarable substances).

In addition to the above recommendations, IPC also urges the EPA to consider:

  • Limiting near-term reporting requirements to those PFAS with CAS Registry Numbers;
  • Ensuring coherence with broader scientific and regulatory efforts to set forth a consistent PFAS definition in this rule;
  • Ensuring coherence with existing reporting requirements for restricted substances in articles with de minimis exemptions as well as exemptions for byproducts and impurities; and
  • Conducting an economic impact analysis for articles manufacturers (including importers) prior to deciding reporting obligations.

Altogether, our comments are intended to help the EPA better understand the data gaps; determine whether PFAS-containing articles should be within the rule's scope; and assist in developing a final rule that will successfully address the agency's information needs while minimizing potential burdens associated with the rule.

I invite you to review our full comments and let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about how this proposed rule will affect your business.