We’re back again with KPA’s EHS Regulatory Compliance Manager Zach Pucillo for the conclusion of our two-part episode covering midyear updates from OSHA and the EPA. In part one, Zach took us through rules and regulations from OSHA, and today, we’re looking at the latest from the EPA.
Okay, Zach, we’ve covered the news from OSHA. Now let’s move on to the EPA. Are there notable updates to keep an eye out for?
Yes, there’s actually probably more flurry of activity going on with the EPA. They’re gonna move a little bit faster than the occupational safety and health administration’s going to move. So the one that’s been making a lot of the news headlines recently, Would be chemicals known as PFAS or PFOA. So PFAS stands for polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFOA are perfluorooctanoic acid. So PFAS and PFOA, where are they found? They’re non-stick types of coatings.
Are these sometimes called forever chemicals?
Yes. Forever chemicals. That’s what they’re called because they’re very difficult to get rid of, and they’re just out there and they’re not gonna go away. So, yep. PFAS, PFOA; both of them are forever chemicals. It’s how the news is relating to them. But yeah, they’re found in non-stick cookware, cosmetics, waxes, waterproofing materials, and probably the more shocking one would be food wrappers and packaging. If you think about it, you get a piece of candy out, like a sucker, you don’t want the wrapper sticking to that, so they use this type of PFAS substance on the wrappers to make sure it doesn’t like stick to that. Some of those fast food wrappers from back in the day as well too.
We’ve seen a lot of industries that have switched over to cardboard for getting a burger or something like that. That’s because they didn’t want the wrappers they were using. They used PFAS in them to not get them to not stick to the food. Well, PFAS we’re learning more and more about them. We don’t know everything about yet. But the EPA is studying them and attempting to get in control of them. They are bioaccumulating out in the environment, which means they get into the system of something, and something else eats that, and then something else eats that item. And so that’s where bioaccumulation comes from. For instance, if it gets into the water and it gets maybe into some plankton, a fish eats the plankton, the fish gets caught, and gets eaten by a human. At that point, we’ve bio-accumulated all those PFAS that were in those different entities. So, PFAS are found in air, water, animals, and humans. We don’t know officially if they’re a carcinogen. When I say we, the EPA is studying them more to see what the actual human health effects of PFAS are, but the outcome is probably not going to be very good.
And the reason it’s making the news a lot is large companies are being sued by city water supplies for contamination of drinking water. And so the current White House administration is really coming down on the EPA to get in control of PFAS, and set regulatory limits on them. One of the issues a couple of years ago was that, yes, they came out with regulations on how much could be found in drinking water, but they didn’t have a test that would go down to that trace amount actually. So we couldn’t even test to make sure that companies were meeting the regulatory limit. So large companies, it’s public information, 3M had a 10 billion dollar settlement a couple of weeks ago with a town down south for contamination of drinking water over the past, 10, 20 years. And this is really before we knew that these potentially could be dangerous.
Wow, that’s a really big headline.
Yeah, 10 billion gets your attention.
Absolutely. So what does this look like since obviously there’s still a lot of research that’s going into this?
Yeah, so the administration has asked the EPA to pretty much get in control of the substances. The EPA has to set those regulatory limits and has to come up with testing so that we can determine how many PFAS are actually being produced into certain chemicals. Really, the thing is to try to eliminate that substance. There are safer forms of PFAS out there, and so now the goal is to try to make sure that those are being used instead of the ones that are linked to more dangerous health effects.
So, for companies out there, what should they be doing or looking at now that they know that this is in the pipeline?
Probably taking a look at their manufacturing of what they’re actually producing and what chemicals are, one going into it, what’s being produced, and then if there is a waste that is generated, what’s in that waste? So really making accurate waste determinations to make sure that if you are discharging into the water streams, What’s in that water? Because that’s where a lot of the different legal issues are coming in for these companies is that they’ve had water that they may have had a national pollutant discharge elimination system permit for, but now the testing has found that, oh, there was an amount of PFAS in there that is over this regulatory limit that the EPA is set forth. So really having that analyzed for PFAS, anything that you produce, having it tested or analyzed for PFAS and there’s lots of different versions up and that are out there and seeing what’s in there, and then taking a look at what the EPA is actually putting out there for the regulatory limits on them and making sure that you’re below them.
All right. Good to keep an eye on.
Another item is the control of hazardous airborne pollutants. So hazardous airborne pollutants are pretty much what it sounds like. Something that’s emitted out into the environment via the air. Could be a metal, a toxic metal, volatile organic compounds that are released into the air, and trying to really restrict those as much as possible.
There are the National Emissions Source Hazards Air Pollutants standards. I refer to them as NESHAP and they pretty much affect all different industries that are going to emit something into the air. And there are different sections under NESHAP for each industry. And so you have to make sure if you’re in an industry that emits something at the air, you’re going into the NESHAP standards and understanding, okay, what do we need to do? According to the EPA, they’ve just revised a lot of these rules because they weren’t able to really track very much. So if you were emitting something in the past, under the original rules, which usually came out around 2010, 2011, you had to send off notifications to the EPA and it was a hard copy form.
And unfortunately, the EPA probably isn’t the greatest at tracking forms for the hundreds of thousands of companies that are out there. So they have come up with an electronic database. And so it’s the central data exchange and in there, there is what they call the CEDRI system. And it’s a database where you’re going to basically put your admission standards in there and any notification form to the EPA. So you might be a car dealership collision center, and you have a paint booth, well, you’re going to possibly be emitting potentially toxic substances into the environment. Therefore, the EPA wants to know about that, and they want to make sure that you are in control of your hazardous airborne pollutants.
And therefore, you have to go into the database and let them know that you are emitting to the environment. And so here’s my company’s information. And it goes into the electronic database at that point. Now also, the better route you can take is just taking a look at what you’re emitting to the environment and making sure that none of the items that you use in your operation are on that list of hazardous airborne pollutants.
And if you can do that, you can be exempt from the whole rulings of NESHAP. And at that point, you can apply for a petition of exemption. And also, one of the rule changes is you can just submit a notification that you are exempt from it and maintain your exemption that way. If you’re ever audited, which is a possibility, you just go through and show that, hey, according to our suppliers and their safety data sheets, we don’t use any hazardous airport pollutants in our operation. Therefore, we can’t emit any.
All right. Makes sense.
I’ve got two more. One is the ban on methylene chloride. So methylene chloride is a chemical that is used commercially for things like stripping paint off of a substance. Also, there’s perchloroethylene, which is a part of this ban as well, and that’s a chemical that’s been used in dry cleaning. So in April, the EPA proposed a ban on the commercial use of both substances in many different types of industries. So why ban methylene chloride? Well, the science behind it is that is a very unsafe chemical. It can lead to severe health impacts and it can even lead to death for employees that are exposed to it. And if it’s a chronic exposure, we’re talking over long periods of time. So if you have a company that is stripping paint off of something and they continually spray it with methylene chloride because it’ll make the paint bubble up, then you can usually just scrape the paint right off.
Well, that whole methylene chloride that you’re breathing in is gonna be very hazardous to your health. It has a lot of different neuro impacts on the person that’s inhaling it. So really, anybody using that should be using a respirator at all times. So the EPA is like, let’s just get this out of production as much as possible. Since 1980, about 85 people have died from exposure to methylene chloride. Largely it’s used in home renovation, contracting work, and even fully trained people equipped with personal protective equipment have had serious health impacts from it. So banning it, I think, is the right approach to take, and a lot of companies have jumped on board with this.
For instance, there are a lot of different brake cleaners out there. When I say brake cleaners, it’s the solvent that like the automotive industry uses to clean up the brake rotors on vehicles when they’re in for repair. And methylene chloride was used in the past because it did a really good job of cleaning off those rotors. Now a lot of industries have understood that that’s very hazardous for the technicians to be using that. So let’s switch over to a non-chlorinated brake cleaner, which is usually a flammable, it’s a solvent that’s used. It’s not the safest, but it is safer than using methylene chloride. So it’s a substitution. And so companies are getting on board and trying to eliminate methylene chloride out there across the industries. But now, regulation is gonna probably require that.
That sounds like a positive change.
It is. And then one other positive change is the control of HFCs and greenhouse gases. So in 2010, the United States came out with the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, otherwise known as the AIM Act, and its goal was to try to control the amount of hydrofluorocarbons used and released in manufacturing. Hydrofluorocarbons help create additional greenhouse gases, which are trapped in the ozone layer and help the global warming of the planet. And that’s what we want to try to reduce, as we talked about in the heat illness. So trying to get control of hydrofluorocarbons is the whole point of the AIM Act. And so it’s basically trying to use different technologies, looking at different chemicals out there to be used to swap out and substitute for these high hydrofluorocarbon-use chemicals.
Where are hydrofluorocarbon is mostly used? Refrigeration, so we’re talking air conditioning, refrigerators, any type of cooling element that could be out there. So we’ve seen some switches in the past in different Freons that are out there, there used to be a Freon called R-12 that’s pretty much been eliminated at this point. There was a Freon called R134A that’s being phased out at this point. And now we’re onto, I believe, it’s called a 1234YF, which is more of a propane-based type of Freon, which eliminates a lot of the hydrofluorocarbons that had been used. So the whole point of this AIM act is to try to reduce global warming potentials by 80% by 2047. So that’s why we’re seeing the changes in refrigeration.
They’re also probably going to start putting some regulations around containers of Freon, meaning if you need to charge something with new Freon, well, if you want a container of that, you have to give me the old container or some kind of old container. It’s like a container swap program. And the goal of that is to try to make sure that if people are charging a substance that needs Freon, they’re not just, loosening the cap and then tossing it out in the backyard, and all of a sudden, it’s just going into the environment the rest of the way. So they’re trying to get control on these containers that are out there. Another great regulation, in my opinion.
Absolutely. So does that cover all of the things that are top of mind for the EPA at the moment?
It does. Yeah. There are always going to be continual efforts on the state side as well. So make sure to keep up with your own state changes that are out there. It could be something to do with water, it could be something to do with hazardous waste, but the air is probably where we’re seeing most of the changes out there.
All right, Zach, we’ve talked about a lot of different regulations that are in the works. Before we go, you always have such great stories. I wanna see if you have any anecdotes or notes to leave us with.
Yeah, I do, actually. In thinking about it, in what we’ve talked about with air emissions, a lot of the different regulatory items to help protect the environment as well, with the heat illness that’s going on. At the time of recording, we just came off of Independence Day in the United States, and on Independence Day, the 4th of July, I was thinking about something and it just came to me about the environment. So you’re going to have to stay with me on this one. This isn’t really field related, it’s just something I was thinking about. But I enjoy watching movies. And one of the movies several people, including myself, watch around the 4th of July is the movie called Independence Day. So it’s a movie about an alien invasion, and how the human race fights for its existence.
Like I said, stay with me here. In many movies that are about extra extraterrestrial invasions, they explain that the invasion is due to the alien race using up the resources of their own planet. So they seek out a new one to inhabit. Just looking at that got me thinking about our own planet. Like with all that I just said, and thankfully the government, as you can see with the regulations, they’re starting to think about this. But if we don’t take climate change, along with the pollution issues going on, seriously, we’re going to be in a similar situation as the extraterrestrials and need a new home to inhabit. We’re talking years away, but we’ve got to turn that thought process around and really take care of what we have here. Is the human race going to go find another planet? No, not anytime soon. Obviously, we have no resources to do that, but we’ve got to take care of this one, and cool it down in terms of global warming. Unfortunately it seems like sometimes the planet’s ecosystem is being driven by economic factors.
And so when it comes to corporate industries, they’re trying to do all that they can to produce more, focus on the bottom line, think it’s going to be more of a burden to follow government regulations. So let’s fight it. Sometimes we’ve all got to understand we have to do our part to eliminate the carbon footprint we leave behind. So I’ll say this, those of you who may be listening to this podcast, and you’re in an established industry and company, take a look at that E in your ESG plan, which is your environmental governance. Are you doing everything you can to eliminate the strain your company puts on the environment? And if not, see what you can do. It’s gonna take a lot of different persuasion to the top decision-makers of the company, but with enough evidence that you can back it up, which I think we’re starting to get more and more of these days, we can make those changes. And with ESG being such a hot topic right now for investors and senior management teams, that’s the backing that you need. We can tout this and then we’re gonna look a lot healthier, a lot better to potential investors down the road.
Absolutely, and I think that’s a really great note to end on shifting from thinking about this as a bunch of rules and regulations that you have to follow and instead seeing it as an opportunity to invest in the success of the future.
Yeah, and these companies, they don’t have to do it on their own. I come across a lot of different companies where somebody has been thrown into, hey, you’re in charge of payroll, but I need you to figure out our safety program. Or you’re HR, but you’re now our environmental person as well. Can you put our ESG plan together? These people need help. They don’t know what they’re doing. And that’s where a company like KPA comes in. We have the resources to help put some of those action plans together that can be touted out there. And it’s not just something that you can tout, but it’s something that you can actually see the results of in establishing a safer work environment and a more environmentally friendly one as well.
So, really a partner in helping companies be prepared rather than feeling like they’re looking at just a long list of regulations.
Yeah, trust me, you don’t want to look at just a list of regulations. They’ll take you here, they’ll take you there, and then you have no idea what you specifically need to do. Whereas KPA, we have a consultant staff that comes in, and we say, okay, I’ve looked at all those regulations. Guess what? Here’s specifically what you need to do. And that goes into a task list, and we all like task lists because, hey, it’s the list we can get done.
Absolutely, all for practical solutions. Well, Zach, this has been fantastic. I really appreciate you joining us again today.
Thank you very much for having me, as always. It’s a pleasure.
This has been the second of a two-part episode with KPA’s EHS Regulatory Compliance Manager, Zach Pacillo. Be sure to check out part one, where Zach shares the recent updates from OSHA.