4 The record articles

PFAS Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) – Finalization and “Safe Harbor” Removal

Posted: July 28th, 2020

Authors: Kayla T. 

On June 22, 2020, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) issued a final significant new use rule (SNUR) for a group of long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) and perfluoroalkyl sulfonate chemical substances, which include per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The new SNUR addresses risks from products like carpets, furniture, electronics, and household appliances.  As with any SNUR, this rule excludes ongoing uses.  Specifically, the SNUR designates manufacturing (including importing) or processing of the following as a “significant new use”:

  • An identified subset of LCPFAC chemical substances for any use that was not ongoing as of December 15, 2015.
  • All other LCPFAC chemical substances for which there were no ongoing uses as of January 21, 2015.

There’s more background here than meets the eye, so let’s dig in.

The amendments to this SNUR were originally proposed on January 21, 2015 and the intention was to require manufacturers and processors of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and PFOA-related chemicals to notify U.S. EPA at least 90 days before starting or resuming new uses of these chemicals in any products.  The purpose of this was to prevent a resurgence in the usage of chemicals that were previously either no longer in use or were being phased out by manufacturers.  If notified, U.S. EPA would have the opportunity to evaluate, prohibit, or limit the proposed usage.

On March 3, 2020, U.S. EPA proposed a supplemental SNUR to require notification from anyone who began or resumed the import of long-chain PFAS chemical substances as part of surface coatings on articles.  However, this proposal also included controversial “de minimis” provisions.  The proposed provisions would have established a de minimis threshold for determining “reasonable potential for exposure.”  The de minimis thresholds were proposed to address concerns that article importers might not be aware of the SNUR regulations.  However, these provisions were met with heavy criticism that they would create a safe harbor from notification and review for certain importers.  The provisions would have allowed article importers to avoid enforcement action if they could demonstrate that their use was ongoing prior to the rule’s effective date.  U.S. EPA responded to comments on the de minimis provisions stating, “[a] safe harbor approach undermines the regulatory process for what uses are allowed by permitting a manufacturer to claim a use was ongoing at the time the SNUR was issued.”

The SNUR finalized on June 22, 2020 removed the proposed de minimis provisions and in general, strengthens Federal regulation of PFAS.  A summary of the final SNUR requirements is below:

  • Makes inapplicable the exemption for persons who import a subset of LCPFAC chemical substances as part of surface coatings on articles and in carpets, which was proposed on March 3, 2020.
  • Requires persons to notify U.S. EPA at least 90 days before commencing the manufacture (including import) or processing of these chemical substances for the significant new uses defined above.
  • Initiates U.S. EPA’s evaluation of the conditions of use associated with the significant new use. Manufacturing (including import) or processing for the significant new use are prohibited from commencing until U.S. EPA has conducted a review of the notice, made an appropriate determination on the notice, and taken such actions as are required in association with that determination.

The SNUR will take effect 60 days after official publication in the Federal Register.  If you are in an industry that may be impacted by this rule, consider conducting a review of your safety data sheets (SDS) or ensuring there is a change management procedure in place to evaluate new formulations using the chemicals covered by this rule.

If you have any comments or questions please reach out via email (kturney@all4inc.com) or phone (610-422-1143).


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