EPA is illegally concealing data about PFAS in millions of plastic containers, lawsuit alleges

By Shannon Kelleher

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is breaking the law by concealing health and safety data about a class of toxic chemicals called PFAS found in millions of plastic containers, two environmental advocacy groups allege.

The agency is refusing to turn over data on toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic containers produced by the company Inhance, citing “confidential business information.”

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) have been seeking data held by the EPA about the company and its containers through a 2023 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. But the agency has redacted and withheld key information, the groups allege.

They filed a lawsuit against the EPA on Thursday claiming the agency is violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by refusing to provide the requested data for public scrutiny.  

“The cloak of confidential business information cannot be used to hide health and safety studies as EPA is currently doing,” Colleen Teubner, a PEER lawyer, said in a press release. “By sitting on this critical information, EPA is advancing the private interests of a corporate violator and shirking its public health responsibilities.”

The groups sent a demand letter to EPA in November, arguing that the agency “has no statutory basis” for its refusal to turn over information.

Last year, the EPA ordered Inhance to stop making plastic containers that contain PFAS following legal pressure from PEER and CEH. That order is set to go into effect Feb. 28.