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The EPA is taking the next step to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) related to packaging used to house pesticides and other substances. The agency has released the results from its evaluation of several fluorinated containers to determine the potential for PFAS to leach into the contents of these containers.

Previously, EPA learned of potential PFAS contamination in a small number of mosquitocide products. In 2021 the agency released data that preliminarily determined PFAS was most likely formed from a chemical reaction during the container fluorination process, which then leached into the pesticide product.

As the EPA continues to gather data on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, they completed another study. This study tested the leaching potential of PFAS over a specific time into test solutions packaged in different brands of HDPE fluorinated containers. The results indicate:

  • Water or methanol used as surrogates for pesticide formulations stored in fluorinated containers had quantifiable PFAS levels. This indicated that PFAS from container walls leached into the contents of the container.
  • The total amount of leached PFAS at each point in time varied for different brands of fluorinated containers, which points to the different fluorination levels and techniques used to fluorinate these containers.
  • The total PFAS leached into the solutions increased gradually over the 20-week test period.
  • Higher amounts of total PFAS were found in methanol solution than in water for the same containers, an observation consistent with the chemistry of methanol as a stronger solvent in dissolving organic compounds.

Based on these results, EPA has determined that liquid products packaged in HDPE containers treated with fluorination technology could leach certain PFAS into products (even water-based) from the container walls. In addition, the total amount of PFAS leached into the products could increase over storage time and cause undisclosed levels of PFAS in a pesticide (or other) product. This study did not test all containers made using such technologies so it is unclear at this time if PFAS would be present in all fluorinated containers treated by different fluorination technologies. The agency continues to ask companies using fluorinated containers and entities providing container fluorination services to examine their distribution chains to identify potential sources of contamination. Keep in mind that under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide registrants should report to EPA additional factual information on unreasonable adverse effects, including metabolites, degradants and impurities (such as PFAS). The EPA considers any level of PFAS to be potentially toxicologically significant. FIFRA section 6(a)(2) information about impurities must be received by EPA no later than the 30th calendar day after the registrant first possesses or knows of the information.

Key to remember: The EPA has released data that has determined that liquid products packaged in HDPE containers treated with fluorination technology could leach certain PFAS into products from the container walls, even with water-based products. Studies like this one advance EPA’s understanding of PFAS and shape further studies that can help determine the risk to human health and the environment from PFAS contamination.