New Rules Could Prevent Thousands of Deaths and Reduce Tens of Thousands of Serious PFAS-attributable Illnesses
The Biden-Harris Administration announced Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking unprecedented measures to protect the American public from toxic PFAS chemicals that are pervasive in its drinking water.
In a statement by EPA Administrator, Michael S. Regan, it was revealed that the agency is proposing to establish legally enforceable levels for six PFAS chemicals known to occur in drinking water. If passed, it would regulate PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants, and will regulate four other PFAS – PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals – as a mixture.
PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and are often referred to as “forever chemicals,” which are a class of manufactured chemicals that are linked to a variety of health issues, including increased incidence of cancer, liver and kidney disease, reproductive issues, immunodeficiencies, and hormonal disruptions.
“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,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA’s proposal to establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science, and would help provide states with the guidance they need to make decisions that best protect their communities. This action has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants.”
Recent studies have estimated that unsafe levels of PFAS toxins pollute the drinking water of over 200 million people in the US, and that it is present in the blood of 99% of all Americans. These are shocking numbers to read, but perhaps not when considering how vast our exposure points to these chemicals are.
“In short, PFAS chemicals are everywhere,” said Dr. Charlie Rolsky, Senior Research Scientist at the Shaw Institute, in Blue Hill, Maine. “Humans and wildlife alike are being exposed to them every day via food, water, soil, air, the products we use or those we discard in the environment. And often in things that provide us safety, comfort and convenience, such as firefighting foam, stain-resistant carpeting, waterproof clothing and non-stick cookware.”
There’s no question that the Biden-Harris Administration has made PFAS a focal point of their efforts, which has also included an extensive EPA roadmap to combat the issue, as well as $10 billion in funding to address emerging contaminants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – $2 billion of which will promote access to safe and clean water in small, rural, and disadvantaged communities while supporting local economies..
“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. “My message to polluters is simple: after poisoning your workers and neighbors for decades, it is time to make our public health, not your profits, our top priority. My message to communities devastated by PFAS pollution is equally simple: help is finally on the way.”
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) said: “Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction as we work to prevent the future contamination of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ in our water and I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to enforce a high standard of water quality.”
Per the EPA statement, the following limitations would be implemented:
- PFOA and PFOS would be regulated at a level where they can be reliably measured at 4 parts per trillion.
- PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals would be limited to any mixture containing one or more of them. Water systems would use an established approach called a hazard index calculation, defined in the proposed rule, to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk.
The EPA further noted that, if finalized, the proposed regulation will require public water systems to monitor for these chemicals. It will also require systems to notify the public and reduce PFAS contamination if levels exceed the proposed regulatory standards.
These new standards are expected to be implemented in 2024.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PFAS FROM A RECENT ARTICLE BY TOD HARDIN
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