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CA PFAS Timeline

CA Agencies’ Actions on PFAS

What is PFAS, PFOA and PFOS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are thousands of human-made substances that do not occur naturally in the environment and are resistant to heat, water, and oil. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are members of the PFAS family. PFAS have been used to make products stain proof, water-resistant and non-stick, like Teflon pans and waterproof coats.

Why We Care
PFAS do not naturally degrade in the environment over time. Some can accumulate within the human body and are toxic to human life at low concentrations. Exposure to unsafe levels of PFOA/PFOS may result in adverse health effects including liver damage, effects on the immune system, cancer and developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is in the process of evaluating the health effects for other PFAS compounds.

CalEPA and Other PFAS Actions
The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) has been coordinating with the US EPA and other governmental agencies over PFAS concerns since 2012. Below is a timeline highlighting CalEPA’s proactive measures to investigate and address PFAS contamination in California, as well as other US governmental PFAS-related actions.

From 2012-2015, CalEPA coordinated with US EPA to enforce the US EPA Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which provided a basis for future regulatory actions to protect public health. During this period, US EPA sampled 2,807 public water supply wells in California for 6 PFAS compounds (PFBS, PFHpA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFOA, PFOS).

In September 2015, US EPA’s Chrome National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) set a ban on the use of PFOS in fume suppressants. NESHAP are stationary source standards for hazardous air pollutants.

In 2016, Biomonitoring California (program co-operated by Department of Toxic Substances Control [DTSC], OEHHA, and California Department of Public Health [CDPH]) conducted the Asian/Pacific Islander Community Exposures project (ACE 1), a study of metals and PFAS in Asian/Pacific Islander adults living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Biomonitoring California performed this study also in 2017 in a different Asian/Pacific Islander population, called ACE 2.

In May 2016, US EPA established Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) limits for PFOA and PFOS of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) combined, and advised municipalities that they should notify their customers of the presence of PFOA and PFOS levels over those limits in community water supplies. The LHA is the level calculated to offer a margin of protection against adverse health effects to the most sensitive populations. Six public water supply wells exceeded the LHA during the 2012-2015 UCMR3 sampling in California.

In September 2016, because of the ban on PFOS-containing fume suppressants, five non-PFOS fume suppressants were approved by California Air Resources Control Board (CARB) for specified chrome plate operations (three products for decorative operations and chromic acid anodizing, and two products for hard chrome plating). The PFAS chemicals used in the list of non-PFOS containing fume suppressants are:

  • PFHxA (Perfluorohexanoic acid)
  • 6:2 FTS (Fluorotelomer sulphonic acid)
  • 6:2 FTOH (Flurotelomer alcohol)

These chemicals and their uses within specific fume suppressants are confidential (this information is not shared by the trade names of the fume suppressants). Additional testing of non-PFOS chemical fume suppressants is underway and additional products will be added to the list as they become certified. 

In June 2018, upon the recommendation of OEHHA, the State Water Board established Interim Notification Levels for PFOA and PFOS at 14 ppt for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. Notification levels are a non-regulatory health-based measure for concentrations in drinking water that warrant public notification and further assessment. Establishing notification levels based on current health studies is an initial step toward setting regulatory standards for these chemicals in drinking water.

Biomonitoring California measured 12 PFAS in 425 Los Angeles County residents as part of the newly enacted regional surveillance study, California Regional Exposure Study.

In February 2019, the US EPA released a PFAS Action Plan to outline steps the agency is taking to address PFAS and to protect public health.

In March and April of 2019, the State Water Board held a board meeting to present the strategy for the state-wide PFAS orders for source investigations and adjacent public drinking water supply sampling. (Board Meeting Video) The State Water Board issued Investigative Orders to airports (30) and landfills (196). These Orders were issued to determine whether groundwater, and/or soil at their locations were impacted by PFAS (23 required compounds were included in the Orders).  They also issued Sampling Orders to water systems to sample the public water supply in the vicinity of those airports and landfills (up to 18 required PFAS compounds included in these Orders).

In April 2019, CalRecycle began the informal regulatory process for SB 1335 (Allen, Chapter 610, Statutes of 2018) to regulate food packaging for State facilities. This included consultations with DTSC and OEHHA regarding toxic chemicals, such as PFAS in food service packaging.

In May 2019, OEHHA sponsored a workshop and webinar session to explore the use of new toxicological approaches to characterize PFAS toxicity.

In August 2019, the State Water Board lowered the notification levels for PFOA to 5.1 ppt and PFOS to 6.5 ppt in response to final recommendations from OEHHA, based on new data concerning PFAS toxicity.

In October 2019, the State Water Board issued Investigative Orders to Chrome Plating Facilities (271) that may have stored or used fume suppressants or other substances that may have contained PFAS. These Orders included the required sampling for 25 PFAS compounds.

On October 24, 2019, DTSC presented its initial findings from its evaluation of food packaging, released a background document on food packaging with PFAS, and initiated a public comment period on that topic.

On November 15, 2019, OEHHA held a webinar in connection with its initiation of the development of Public Health Goals (PHG) for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, to allow public discussion of the available data on toxicity from studies of these chemicals in animals and humans.  A PHG is a non-regulatory level of a contaminant in drinking water that does not pose a significant health risk.

On November 19, 2019, the State Water Board’s Divisions of Drinking Water and Water Quality provided an update on the PFAS actions taken to date to the board members of the State Water Board during a public informational item (Board Meeting Video)

In November 2019, DTSC-SCP released the draft product-chemical profile on treatments for converted textiles and leathers containing PFAS and initiated the public comment period. It then held the pre-regulatory workshop for this proposed Priority Product on December 9, 2019.

On December 4-5, 2019, the State Water Board held a 2-day seminar and associated datathon to share technical information about PFAS. Day 1. Day 2.  This 2-day seminar highlighted the latest information surrounding the topics of: research, data analysis tools, analytical testing, toxicological effects, exposure pathways to humans and aquatic life, treatment and monitoring, and efforts to reduce PFAS in consumer products and packaging. Data scientists attending the datathon presented their efforts of PFAS source identification and prediction models through fingerprinting analysis and web-based tools developed to analyze large PFAS datasets.

On December 13, 2019, OEHHA co-sponsored with UC Berkeley a workshop to identify short and long-term steps towards identifying PFAS hazards, with a focus on chemical grouping and use of advanced toxicological approaches.

In December 2019, the Department of Defense prohibited the use of fluorinated aqueous film-forming foam (also known as AFFF) in training exercises and recommended a screening level for PFOA and PFOS in groundwater. AFFF is a highly effective foam used for fighting chemical liquid fires.  PFAS are the active ingredient in fluorinated surfactants used in AFFF products. PFOA and PFOS were part of the AFFF formations but was phased out by 2002 for PFOS and by 2016 for PFOA by the chemical manufacturers.  Now, AFFF formulations contain fluorotelomer-based PFAS compounds.

Biomonitoring California measured 12 PFAS compounds in 358 residents of five Eastern and Southeastern counties (Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Mono, and Inyo counties) as part of the continuing regional surveillance study for the California Regional Exposure Study.

On January 14, 2020, DTSC-SCP held a public workshop on PFAS and their alternatives in food packaging.

In January 2020, Assembly Bill 756 went into effect, which requires municipalities to notify consumers for PFAS detected above notification levels. This bill also authorizes the State Water Board to exercise broader authority to order a public water system to sample for PFAS.

In January 2020, Congress passed Federal HR 535, which directs US EPA to promulgate drinking water regulations for PFAS.

In February 2020, the State Water Board lowered the response levels to 10 ppt for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS in response to new data concerning PFAS toxicity. The response levels are based on a running four-quarter average.

In February 2020, the State Water Board requested OEHHA to evaluate and recommend notification levels for seven PFAS compounds: perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), and 4,8-dioxia-3H-perflourononanoic acid (ADONA) based on the presence of these compound being detected in public water supplies.

In March 2020, CalRecycle initiated the formal rulemaking process for SB 1335. The 45-day public comment period was extended from April 28, 2020 to May 21, 2020 due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The proposed regulations include 100 parts per million limits on PFAS in food service packaging.

In April 2020, DTSC-SCP initiated the ESPR process on its proposal to list treatments for converted textiles and leathers containing PFAS as a Priority Product.

Before pausing the study due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Biomonitoring California collected blood samples from 90 residents of San Diego and Orange counties as part of the continuing regional surveillance study, California Regional Exposure Study.

On July 9, 2020, the State Water Board issued Investigative Orders to Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) (249) that receive PFAS in their influent wastewater flow and then potentially distributed out of the POTW in the effluent wastewater, biosolids, and reverse osmosis concentrate. These Orders included the required sampling for 31 PFAS compounds.

On August 27, 2020, DDW issued General Order 2020-003-DDW for public water systems to sample and report PFAS based on the 2019/2020 public water systems sampling for PFAS.

On September 29, 2020, SB 1044 was signed into law. This bill adds language to the Health and Safety Code prohibiting a manufacturer of class B firefighting foam from manufacturing, importing, knowingly selling, offering for sale, or distributing class B firefighting foam for use in California. Any release of class b firefighting foam with intentionally added PFAS chemicals into the environment must be reported to the State Fire Marshal. The bill also prohibits the use of class B firefighting foam containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals in California after January 1, 2022. SB 1044 establishes oversight at the local and state level to ensure compliance with the new regulations, including the ability to levy civil penalties for non-compliance. Staggered compliance dates are provided for fixed foam systems, systems designed for 110 percent containment of discharge (January 1, 2024), and terminals and refineries (January 1, 2028). This ban does not apply if the use of class B firefighting foam is required by federal law.

October 7, 2020, PFAS Technical Presentation at State Water Board meeting summarizing the 2019/2020 data and investigation results at the airports, landfills, and public water systems (Board Meeting Video).

On February 16, 2021, DDW issued General Order DW-2021-0001-DDW for public water systems to sample and report PFAS within and adjacent to Department of Defense facilities in the State of California. This Order pertains to facilities that have been identified as having used Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) known to contain PFAS chemicals through the Comprehensive, Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process.

On March 5, 2021, DDW issued a drinking water notification level and response level of 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) and 5 ppb, respectively for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS).

On March 12, 2021, the State Water Board issued Investigative Orders to Refineries and Bulk Fuel Terminals (161) for a one-time sampling effort to determine whether soil, groundwater, surface water, and influent and effluent wastewater at their locations were impacted by PFAS. These Orders included the required sampling for 31 PFAS compounds.

On July 1, 2021, The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) designated carpets and rugs containing per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) that are manufactured in or imported to California as a Priority Product. This designation requires domestic and foreign carpet and rug manufacturers that use PFAS and related chemicals in their products to submit a Priority Product Notification (PPN) for the affected products by August 30, 2021, with the goal of reducing human exposure to PFAS. Manufacturers will then be required to show intent to remove or replace PFAS in their products, remove the product from the market, or identify potential alternatives to PFAS to be used in the product by December 28, 2021. Milestones getting to this designation along with related documents and links are provided here along with a January 31, 2017 public workshop.

On July 22, 2021, The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced the release of a draft document for public review describing Public Health Goals (PHGs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water. A PHG is a non-regulatory level of a contaminant in drinking water that does not pose a significant health risk. The public comment period for the draft document begins July 30, 2021 and ends September 28, 2021.

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Coordinating Agencies

CalRecycle Logo
California Air Resources Board Logo
California Department of Pesticide Regulation Logo
California Department of Public Health (CDPH)  Logo
Department of Toxic Substances Control – Safer Consumer Products logo
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)  logo
California Water Boards’ Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) logo