EPA: New 'GenX' PFAS Chemicals, In Use In Merrimack, May Still Be Toxic

Nov 19, 2018

Credit Annie Ropeik for NHPR

The EPA says new types of nonstick industrial chemicals might not be much safer than their predecessors – raising alarm in parts of New Hampshire.

For years, companies used fluorinated chemicals like PFOA and PFOS to make nonstick, waterproof or stain-resistant products.

Now, science suggests those chemicals can harm human health even at very low levels.

So industry has replaced them with similar compounds called GenX. They're all part of the PFAS family.

The government's first major draft study of GenX says it's less toxic than its predecessors – but may still cause some of the same health problems, especially in the liver.

GenX is in use at the Saint Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack and has been found in air testing, along with older PFAS chemicals that have contaminated nearby wells.

The state has only done limited testing for GenX as part of its investigation into that pollution. Few labs in the country can even analyze for GenX chemicals.

Some advocates within the government and affected communities say the EPA and states should regulate all the related chemicals as one class – but that’s easier said than done.

The EPA will take public comment on its GenX report through mid-January.

It could clarify some of the science of the chemicals, but regulators won’t issue strict standards for exposure to the chemicals any time soon.

They’re still working on setting up regulations for a small group of the best-studied, older PFAS chemicals – such as PFOA and PFOS.