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Chemours files legal petition against EPA over GenX advisory

There are a number of initiatives in the works to address PFAS in drinking water.
ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT
/
AFP via Getty Images
There are a number of initiatives in the works to address PFAS in drinking water.

Chemours, the company responsible for the PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River, is bringing the EPA to court over its recent GenX health advisory.

Chemours, the company responsible for the PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River, is bringing the EPA to court over its recent PFAS health advisory.

According to a press release from the company, Chemours has not taken issue with the health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. Those legacy chemicals were manufactured by DuPont's performance chemicals division, which was later spun off -- along with potential legal liability -- into Chemours in 2015. Those two chemicals received health advisory levels below current detection abilities.

Instead, Chemours is taking the Environmental Protection Agency to court over GenX — a Chemours' trademarked chemical used in manufacturing, that has contaminated the Cape Fear River for decades. The EPA set the health advisory level at 10 parts per trillion for drinking water, less than a tenth of the state of North Carolina’s previous advisory.

Chemours has petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to review the health advisory. It claims the EPA should have opened its toxicity assessment for GenX up to public review, particularly because the 2021 assessment is materially different from the 2018 assessment, which came under the Trump administration.

GenX is a short-chain PFAS, which does not accumulate in the body like the legacy PFAS. But GenX has still been linked to health effects like reproductive problems, low birth weight, high cholesterol, and several types of cancers.

The move comes after the Supreme Court ruled to limit the EPA’s ability to fight climate change, giving many advocates for environmental regulation pause.

Chemours' full statement on the petition is as follows:

Chemours supports government regulation that is grounded in the best available science and follows the law. The health advisory issued by the US EPA for HFPO-Dimer Acid (“HFPO-DA") fails on both accounts. When an agency misuses its authority to promulgate a health advisory that is scientifically unsound, in a manner contrary to the agency’s own processes and standards, we have an obligation to challenge it, administratively and in the courts.

Nationally recognized toxicologists and other leading scientific experts across a range of disciplines have evaluated the EPA’s underlying analysis and concluded that it is fundamentally flawed. EPA’s own peer reviewer called aspects of EPA’s toxicity assessment (which serves as the basis for the health advisory) “extreme” and “excessive.” The agency disregarded relevant data and incorporated grossly incorrect and overstated exposure assumptions in devising the health advisory. The EPA’s failure to use the best-available-science and follow its own standards are contrary to this administration’s commitment to scientific integrity, and we believe unlawful.

Editor's note: WHQR has requested, but not yet received, comment from the EPA.

Clarification: A previous version of this article referred to GenX as a "product," but while it is the trade name of a chemical produced by Chemours, the company refers to it as a "patented technology process" used to make other fluoropolymers.  Additionally, the article previously stated that Chemours is responsible for making PFOA historically. Instead, PFOA was made by Chemours' parent company, DuPont, before Chemours was created from the DuPont division that manufactured PFAS chemicals. 

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.