Substantial PFAS Contamination Found in Pesticides

October 03, 2022
New research has documented disturbingly high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in widely used pesticides. These findings contradict previous statements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that PFAS are not used in registered pesticide products and has prompted Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) to urge that EPA act immediately to ban use of any pesticide containing PFAS.
Published this week in the Journal of Hazardous Materials Letters the study, “Targeted Analysis and Total Oxidizable Precursor Assay of Several Pesticides for PFAS,” found –
  • PFOS (one of the two legacy PFAS that is no longer manufactured in the United States) in 6 out of 10 tested insecticides at incredibly high levels, ranging from 3,920,000 to 19,200,000 parts-per-trillion (ppt). By contrast, this June EPA updated its Health Advisory for PFOS to 0.02 ppt
  • These PFAS are being taken up into the roots and shoots of plants, which means that they are entering our food supply through contaminated soils. Given that PFAS are “forever chemicals,” this contamination will last long after PFAS is removed from pesticides
  • A non-targeted PFAS analysis indicates that there are far more additional unknown PFAS in 7 out of 10 tested insecticides
“If the intent was to spread PFAS contamination across the globe there would be few more effective methods than lacing pesticides with PFAS,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, noting that one of the pesticides containing PFAS is malathion, one of the most commonly applied insecticides in the world. “These findings point to an appalling regulatory breakdown by EPA.”
On September 1, EPA moved to remove 12 PFAS from its approved list of inert ingredients for pesticides. Its announcement stated that “these PFAS are no longer used in any registered pesticide products…” However, this new study demonstrates that the PFAS problem in pesticides goes far beyond the inert ingredients.
This contamination does not spring from contaminated barrels but from the ingredients of the pesticides themselves, possibly added as dispersants to aid in the even spreading of the agents on plant surfaces.
“This research has alarming implications that demand immediate regulatory action: EPA must test all pesticides, and immediately ban the use of pesticides that contain PFAS,” added Bennett, arguing that EPA can no longer rely on voluntary manufacturer testing. “The level of absorption by plants suggests that a person could absorb a lifetime dose of PFAS from eating one salad made with produce treated with these pesticides.”
Moreover, the study’s detection of unknown PFAS suggests that many of the PFAS being found fall outside the very narrow definition that EPA is developing for regulatory purposes. PEER has been urging EPA to address all PFAS, as a category, rather than continuing its present chemical-by-chemical approach for the hundreds of PFAS currently in use and the unknown number of these chemicals in development.
OSHA Eyes Potential Changes to PSM Standard
OSHA is considering changes to the scope and provisions of its process safety management (PSM) standard, the agency announced recently via press release and Federal Register notice. Potential changes to the scope of the standard include resuming enforcement for oil and gas production facilities; expanding requirements for reactive chemical hazards; updating the standard’s list of highly hazardous chemicals; and expanding the scope of the standard to include oil- and gas-well drilling and servicing. Changes to provisions of the PSM standard could strengthen employee participation, require safer technology and alternatives analysis, and cover the mechanical integrity of critical equipment. OSHA is also considering revisions that would require root cause analysis and coordination of emergency planning with local emergency response authorities. The agency is also considering changes that would require the development of written procedures for all elements specified in the PSM standard.
OSHA plans to provide an overview of its PSM rulemaking activities during a virtual stakeholder meeting on Oct. 12. Stakeholders and the public can register to participate in or attend the meeting on OSHA’s website. The agency will hear verbal comments during the virtual meeting and will accept written comments related to its potential changes to the PSM standard until Nov. 14. Instructions for commenting can be found in the Federal Register.
OSHA’s PSM standard has not been updated since it was published in 1992. More information on the agency’s PSM rulemaking efforts is available on the agency’s website.
EPA Proposes Cancellation of Pesticide PCNB
EPA is proposing to cancel all registrations of the pesticide pentachloronitrobenzene (PCNB), a fungicide used to control plant diseases around certain field crops and at non-agricultural sites like golf courses and athletic fields. The agency’s proposal is based on “significant ecological and human health risks posed by PCNB and limited benefits from [its] current uses” as identified in draft risk assessments published by EPA last year. The human health risk assessment identified potential risks from occupational exposure to the pesticide when it is used on crops like woody ornamentals and flowering bulbs. The document describes additional concerns related to exposure to bystanders from spray drift and to users of athletic fields when PCNB is directly applied to those areas. A separate draft risk assessment discusses ecological risks to fish, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, aquatic plants, birds, reptiles, mammals, and bees.
According to EPA, cancelling registrations of PCNB would align the United States with pesticide regulatory authorities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the European Union. Fungicides such as azoxystrobin, pyraclostrobin, tebuconazole, and propiconazole are viable alternatives, EPA says. Crop rotation and the biopesticide Bacillus subtillus are also identified by the agency as additional alternatives to control some target pests.
EPA has opened a public comment period on its proposed decision for PCNB. Interested parties have until Nov. 22 to submit feedback to the agency.
EPA periodically reviews pesticide registrations to ensure that pesticides can perform their intended functions without “unreasonable adverse effects” on human health or the environment. More information about EPA’s PCNB decision can be found in an agency press release.
Oregon DEQ Issued 19 Penalties in August for Environmental Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 19 penalties totaling $500,665 in August for various environmental violations. A detailed list of violations and resulting penalties is at
Fines ranged from $1,050 to $136,845. Alleged violations include a chemical company transporting hazardous waste without proper documentation, a bread maker and a paper mill emitting more air pollution than allowed by their air quality permits, and a city discharging more water pollution than allowed by its wastewater permit.
DEQ issued civil penalties to the following organizations:
  • Advanced Chemical Transport, Inc. dba ACTenviro, $22,800, Clackamas, hazardous waste
  • Basque Station, Inc., $14,809, Jordan Valley, underground fuel storage tank
  • Burns' Davey Jones Locker, Inc. , $5,144, Charleston, underground fuel storage tank
  • City of Stanfield, $1,950, Stanfield, wastewater
  • Clackamas Water Environment Services, $7,500, Welches, wastewater
  • Dave's Killer Bread, $136,845, Milwaukie, air quality
  • Georgia Pacific Toledo LLC, $43,704, Toledo, air quality and water quality
  • K&E Excavating, Inc., Buckland Mines, $57,387, Bridgeport, wastewater and stormwater
  • Larry Navilhon, $20,000, Roseburg, asbestos
  • Malheur Lumber, $83,503, John Day, wastewater and stormwater
  • Mark Wells, $23,200, Roseburg, asbestos
  • Oregon Metallurgical, LLC, dba ATI Albany Operation, $21,600, Albany, hazardous waste
  • Oregon Potato Company, $2,800, Boardman, air quality
  • Patricia Davis, $5,800, Obrien, open burning and solid waste
  • Regency of Oregon, Inc. (Canby Regency Mobile Home), $1,050, Canby, wastewater
  • S&H Logging Co., $14,000, Aurora, air quality and solid waste
  • Swanson Group Mfg. LLC, $6,000, Roseburg, air quality
  • Trillium US, Inc., $26,573, Clackamas, air quality
  • Woodgrain, Inc., $6,000, Pilot Rock, wastewater
Organizations or individuals must either pay the fines or file an appeal within 20 days of receiving notice of the penalty. They may be able to offset a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment. Learn more about these projects at
Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm.
Containerboard Manufacturer Will Pay $2.5 Million for Violating Clean Air Act at Its Louisiana Mill
Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), headquartered in Illinois, has agreed to pay $2.5 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause and Risk Management Program Regulations at its containerboard production mill in DeRidder, Louisiana.
In the complaint, filed recently with the proposed settlement, the United States and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) allege nine Clean Air Act violations that stem, in part, from a fatal explosion and accidental release at the DeRidder mill on Feb. 8, 2017. The explosion – which killed three workers and injured seven others – launched a 100,000-gallon storage tank into the air and over a six-story building before it landed on mill equipment approximately 400 feet away. The blast also caused property damage and released extremely hazardous substances into the environment. The EPA inspected the DeRidder mill after the explosion, and uncovered additional Clean Air Act violations.
“PCA violated the Clean Air Act and accompanying regulations at its DeRidder mill, resulting in an explosion that caused the senseless deaths of three workers, while placing other workers and the surrounding community in danger,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. “The department will continue enforcing environmental mandates to save lives and protect air quality — especially against companies with a history of misconduct, like PCA.”
“The Clean Air Act was created to provide guidelines for companies such as PCA to adhere to in order to keep our communities safe from hazardous substances,” said U.S. Attorney Brandon Brown for the Western District of Louisiana. “Sadly, it took an explosion and the loss of lives to highlight PCA’s failure to adhere to some of these guidelines. The Civil Division in the Western District of Louisiana has an important job and welcomes the opportunity to continue to work alongside our federal and local partners to ensure these laws are abided by.”
“This case demonstrates the tragic impacts to human life and the environment that can result from failures to follow appropriate chemical accident prevention and preparation requirements,” said Larry Starfield, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement both holds the Packaging Corporation of America accountable for failures that contributed to this accident and sends a clear message to corporations across the country on the importance of implementing appropriate chemical safety measures.”
“This settlement holds Packaging Corporation of America accountable for the harm it has caused to the environment and to the individuals who lost their lives on Feb. 8, 2017,” said Dr. Earthea Nance, EPA Region 6 Administrator. “Legal action will be pursued for companies who fail to safeguard their workers’ well-being. We offer our condolences for all individuals affected by this tragedy.”
“We join with our federal partners in taking action to ensure that this tragic occurrence is properly addressed,” said Dr. Chuck Carr Brown, LDEQ Secretary. “Those responsible must be held accountable.”
Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act and its accompanying regulations are designed to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances, like those at the DeRidder mill. Congress added section 112(r) in response to the 1984 catastrophic release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, that killed more than 3,400 people and injured more than 200,000 others. Under the Clean Air Act, facilities like PCA’s are required to identify hazards, design and maintain a safe facility, minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur, and comply with regulatory prevention measures. Failing to comply with these requirements increases the risk of accidents and threatens surrounding communities.
Reducing the risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of chemical accidents at chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance program.
Cabinet Manufacturer Cited After Technician Suffers Fatal Electrocution
A federal workplace safety investigation into a maintenance technician's fatal electrocution found an Ashland cabinet manufacturer might have prevented the incident by following required safety standards.
OSHA investigators determined the 33-year-old employee of Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. came into contact with a 277-volt circuit while replacing a light fixture in a paint booth on March 16, 2022.
OSHA cited Wellborn Cabinet with eight serious violations for not verifying that circuit elements and equipment parts were de-energized before allowing an employee to install light fixtures, and for failing to use energy isolating devices for hazardous energy.
Agency inspectors also identified violations for the company's failure to ensure employees wore eye protection when spraying coatings, paints and finishes, and for allowing workers to utilize an A-frame portable ladder to access the top of a paint booth. OSHA has proposed $115,188 in penalties.
"A worker's family, friends and co-workers now grieve a terrible loss which might have been prevented had Wellborn Cabinet followed federal safety requirements," explained OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham. "Every worker has a right to a safe and healthful workplace and every employer is legally responsible for providing one. We encourage employers to contact us with questions about keeping their employees safe."
In 2020, 126 workers lost their lives from exposure to electricity on the job, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
Founded in 1961, Ashland-based Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. is a family-owned business that manufactures kitchen and bath cabinets, and employs approximately 1,200 workers.
Demolition Company Willfully Exposed Workers to Hazards, Leading to Fatality
A heavy equipment operator doing demolition on the eighth floor of the Government Center garage in downtown Boston died on March 26, 2022, when the partially demolished floor collapsed, and the 11,000-pound excavator and its operator fell 80 feet. It was the employee’s first day on the job. 
An inspection by OSHA found that Brockton-based contractor JDC Demolition Company, Inc. failed to adequately train its workers on the demolition plan and safety management system to help them recognize and avoid unsafe conditions.
Specifically, on the morning of the collapse, another heavy equipment operator, who had started demolition on a concrete beam on an upper floor bay, told the foreman they had concerns about the floor’s safety. Despite the employee raising safety concerns to the foreman, a second employee was assigned to operate the excavator. That worker, the deceased, never received a safety briefing and was not trained to follow the engineer’s demolition plan.
OSHA also found that JDC Demolition deviated from the demolition plan by imposing unsafe loads, in the form of heavy equipment, on the partially demolished seventh, eighth and ninth floors. The demolition plan prohibited the placement of heavy equipment on partially demolished floor bays.
As a result, OSHA cited the company for eight egregious-willful violations, two serious violations and one other than serious violation of workplace safety standards and proposed a total of $1,191,292 in penalties. The willful citations address the training and loading violations; the serious and other than serious violations are regarding the inadequate accident prevention program, uncovered floor holes and insufficient recordkeeping.
"JDC Demolition Company Inc. knew the heavy equipment on the partially demolished floors were over the weight limits and still allowed a worker, unaware of the hazards, to do demolition work," said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston. "This willful and egregious disregard for safety cost a workers’ life and exposed other employees to potentially fatal hazards."
OSHA also cited John Moriarty and Associates, Inc., the demolition project’s general contractor, for four serious violations, with $58,008 in proposed penalties, for failing to ensure that:
  • Partially demolished precast concrete floors were of sufficient strength to support the imposed load of mechanical equipment
  • Employees were trained to recognize and avoid overloading of floors during demolition
  • Cover or secure floor holes
  • A competent person had adequately inspected the jobsite during demolition
Candymaker Again Exposed Workers to Amputation from Machine Hazards
A federal workplace safety inspection found a Chicago-area candy manufacturer's long history of violations for machine safety requirements continues after the company exposed workers to amputation hazards and failed to utilize lockout procedures for the third time in five years at its Bellwood site.
OSHA has issued citations to Ferrara Candy Co. for one repeat violation and four serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $201,379, after responding to an April 4, 2022, complaint of unsafe working conditions. OSHA inspectors found workers exposed to amputation hazards because the company failed to utilize energy control procedures – such as lockout/tagout – before workers cleared jams and serviced equipment.
"Ferrara Candy Co. knows its workers can suffer debilitating injuries, such as amputations, when machines are not properly de-energized before servicing or maintaining them," said OSHA's Chicago North Area Director Angeline Loftus in Arlington Heights, Illinois. "Yet, company personnel continue to expose employees needlessly to these hazards. OSHA will continue to hold manufacturers accountable for using safe work practices, including lockout."
In addition to citations for failing to provide specific lockout/tagout procedures, OSHA cited the company for not providing access to an eyewash station and for allowing workers to operate powered industrial vehicles while in disrepair.
OSHA's machine guarding and control of hazardous energy web pages provide information on what employers must do to limit worker exposure to machine hazards.
Based in Chicago, the Ferrara Candy Co. manufactures nonchocolate confectionary products and employs workers at manufacturing facilities across North America.
Defense Logistics Agency Agrees to Pay $1.6 Million for Underground Storage Tank Violations
The Defense Logistics Agency, the entity that manages the global supply chain for five military services and multiple government partners, has agreed to pay the State Water Resources Control Board a $1.6 million penalty for improperly abandoning five underground storage tanks at the former Defense Support Point Moffett Field in Santa Clara, CA.
The agency emptied the tanks but did not apply for temporary or permanent closure as required by the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health. Between 2005 and 2015, the county also issued five violation notices to the agency for failing to inspect and monitor the tanks. Leaking storage tanks discharge petroleum into groundwater and contaminate drinking water aquifers and wells, threatening human health and safety.
The county referred the case to the State Water Board in 2015 after repeated efforts to resolve the matter were unsuccessful. During a site inspection in March 2015, the board’s enforcement staff found numerous violations related to operation of the empty fuel tanks, which were removed from the ground between August 2021 and July 2022.
“Compliance with underground storage tank monitoring and inspection requirements is critical to protecting our state’s groundwater resources and human health,” said Yvonne West, the board’s director of enforcement. “This significant penalty is warranted by the nature and duration of the violations and should serve as a reminder that we vigilantly enforce against offenders when warranted.”
Per terms of the settlement, the agency will deposit $801,556 in the State Water Board Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account. The State Water Board will suspend an additional $801,556 provided the agency pays this amount toward lead-based paint abatement at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
News Links
Trivia Question of the Week