My children are teenagers now, but it seems like yesterday they were toddlers crawling around on the carpet. It makes you wonder about children’s exposure to the chemicals that make up the synthetic materials in carpets. While most of these chemicals pose no risk to human health or the environment (due to their properties and how they are used in the making of consumer products), some do.
Some chemicals used in carpets to resist soil and stains have been found to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in humans and animals— posing potential long-term health risks. As a result of these findings, to their credit, eight major U.S. companies producing these perfluorinated chemicals voluntarily phased them out of use in 2006. These companies committed to EPA’s voluntary Stewardship Program, pledging to reduce global emissions and the amount of these chemicals in products by the end of 2015. As part of this phase-out program, the U.S. industry largely stopped using these chemicals in carpets and aftercare treatment products.
But the phased out chemicals could still be used in imported carpets, which puts the companies who committed to the phase-out at a potential economic disadvantage. So today, we are finalizing a rule that will allow EPA to restrict imports of potentially harmful perfluorinated chemicals that are used in carpets and which have largely been voluntarily phased out by American business. The rule requires companies to report to EPA all new uses of these chemicals, including in both domestic and imported products, otherwise know as a Significant New Use Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which provides the Agency with an opportunity to review, and if necessary, place limits on new production and imports.
Our aim is to both protect the American public and our environment from higher levels of these potentially harmful chemicals in imported carpet products, as well as providing a level playing field for those companies who stepped up to cease the use of these chemicals in this country in 2006.
Rules such as these ensure that our homes and workplaces are safer and healthier environments now, and in the decades ahead for our children and families.
Jim Jones is the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 26 years. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.