EPA orders company to stop making plastic containers that leach toxic PFAS

By Shannon Kelleher
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered a major company to stop producing hundreds of millions of plastic containers each year that contain toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which leach into countless products.

The so-called “forever chemicals” are produced by a fluorination technique that Inhance Technologies uses to prevent liquids from leaking out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic containers. The resulting PFAS can leach into pesticides, personal care products, household cleaners, condiments, and many other liquids stored within the containers.

“I’m stunned but pleased that EPA took such strong action and hoping the decision remains intact through whatever court case Inhance is going to bring,” said Kyla Bennett, the science policy director for the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and a former EPA employee. “It wasn’t easy getting them there, but they got there and that’s what matters.”

Inhance is “basically the only one in the world” that uses this particular fluorination process to treat plastic containers, Bennett said, adding that plastic containers from two ounces up to 55 gallon drums are affected and “we’re talking about really all sectors of the economy.”

The order, issued Dec. 1 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), states that nine long-chain PFAS chemicals have been identified in Inhance containers, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which was recently classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO). The order will go into effect Feb. 28, 2024.