The Environmental Protection Agency headquarters is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 19, 2020.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the primary nationwide restrictions on so-called “ceaselessly chemicals” in drinking water after discovering the compounds are more dangerous than previously known — even at undetectable levels.
The chemicals, referred to as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers. But they’re proof against breaking down within the environment and might linger within the human body when consumed. Because of this, most individuals within the U.S. have been exposed to PFAS and have the chemicals of their blood, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the reason that Forties, the chemicals have been used to make products waterproof, stickproof and stain-resistant, and so they could be present in food packaging, cookware, clothing and firefighting foam, amongst other things. The chemicals have been linked to health problems including certain cancers, liver damage and low birth weight.
The Environmental Working Group, an environmental organization, has found 41,828 industrial and municipal sites which can be known to provide, use or are suspected of using PFAS, with a few of the highest levels present in the cities of Miami, Recent Orleans and Philadelphia.
The EPA’s proposed standards cover six PFAS which have polluted drinking national water supplies. The proposal would regulate PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants and would regulate 4 other PFAS — PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and GenX chemicals — as a combination.
For PFOA and PFOS, the agency proposed a binding drinking water limit of 4 parts per trillion per chemical. And for the remainder, the EPA proposed a binding limit based on a hazard index designed to deal with the cumulative impact of the chemicals.
The agency said it expects to finalize the regulation by the tip of the 12 months. The EPA said, if fully implemented, the rule will prevent 1000’s of deaths and reduce tens of 1000’s of PFAS-attributable illnesses.
“Communities across this country have suffered far too long from the ever-present threat of PFAS pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a press release. “EPA’s proposal to ascertain a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the very best available science, and would help provide states with the guidance they should make decisions that best protect their communities.”
The regulation would also require public water systems to watch for the chemicals, notify the general public and reduce PFAS contamination if levels exceed the proposed regulatory standards.
“Today’s proposal is a essential and long overdue step towards addressing the nation’s PFAS crisis, but what comes next is equally essential,” said Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, an attorney at Earthjustice.
“EPA must resist efforts to weaken this proposal, move quickly to finalize health-protective limits on these six chemicals and address the remaining PFAS that proceed to poison drinking water supplies and harm communities across the country,” Kalmuss-Katz said.
The EPA was first alerted to the presence of PFAS in drinking water in 2001 but through the years has did not set a nationwide legal limit. Last 12 months, the agency issued health advisories that set health risk thresholds for the chemicals near zero, replacing 2016 guidelines that set a better threshold.
Representatives of U.S. chemical firms, equivalent to the American Chemistry Council, had opposed the Biden administration’s designation of PFAS chemicals as hazardous and argued the rule was costly and ineffective.
The agency last 12 months also invited states and territories to use for $1 billion under the bipartisan infrastructure law to deal with PFAS in drinking water, specifically in disadvantaged communities. The grant funding will provide technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training and installation of centralized treatment technologies and systems.