A national drinking water standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – also known as “forever chemicals” and PFAS – could be established soon in the U.S.
According to a Tuesday announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Biden-Harris Administration is proposing the first-ever national drinking water standard for six PFAS chemicals found in drinking water.
“PFAS are widely used, long lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time,” the EPA explained. “Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment.”
Research indicates that exposure to these chemicals could be linked to harmful health effects in both humans and animals. The six PFAS chemicals covered by the proposal are: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and “GenX Chemicals – as a mixture.”
Tuesday’s proposal builds on other efforts from the current administration to prevent forever chemical exposure, including the distribution kickoff of $10 billion in funding to address emerging contaminants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
“Communities across this country have suffered far too long from the ever-present threat of PFAS pollution. That’s why President Biden launched a whole-of-government approach to aggressively confront these harmful chemicals, and EPA is leading the way forward,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.
Going forward, the EPA is requesting input on the proposal from the public and other stakeholders. Comments may be submitted through the public docket, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0114, at www.regulations.gov.
If the proposed action is ultimately finalized, public water systems would be required to monitor for PFAS chemicals. Public water systems would also be required to notify the public and reduce PFAS contamination if levels exceed the proposed regulatory standards. With these measures, the EPA expects thousands of PFAS related deaths could be prevented and PFAS-related illnesses might decrease by tens of thousands.
“After decades of delay, President Biden’s EPA has delivered a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS which, when finalized, will be the toughest in the nation,” said activist and actor Mark Ruffalo of the proposal.