WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The Environmental Protection Agency is warning that two nonstick and stain-resistant compounds found in drinking water are more dangerous than previously thought — and pose health risks even at such low levels that currently I cannot trace them.
The two compounds, known as PFOA and PFOS, have been voluntarily eliminated by US manufacturers, but a limited number of uses are ongoing and the chemicals persist in the environment because they do not degrade over time. The compounds are part of a larger group of “forever chemicals” known as PFASs that have been used in consumer products and industry since the 1940s.
The EPA issued a non-binding health advisory Wednesday that sets the health risk thresholds for PFOA and PFOS to near zero, replacing the 2016 guidelines, which set them at 70 parts per trillion. Chemicals found in products including cardboard packaging, carpets and fire extinguishing foam
Also, the agency is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion under the new bipartisan infrastructure law to address PFAS and other contaminants in drinking water. Officials said the money could be used for technical support, water quality testing, contractor training and setting up of centralized treatment.
watch: Why PFAS are so impenetrable, and who is most at risk from forever chemicals
Many states set their own drinking water limits to address PFAS contamination that is much more difficult than federal guidance. Toxic industrial compounds have been linked to serious health conditions, including cancer and low birth weight.
“People on the front lines of PFAS contamination have been suffering for a very long time,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “That’s why the EPA is taking aggressive action as part of an overall government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect families concerned from this widespread challenge.”
PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are used in nonstick frying pans, water-repellent sports gear, stain-resistant rugs, cosmetics, and countless other consumer products. The chemical bonds are so strong that they do not degrade or do so only slowly in the environment and remain in a person’s bloodstream indefinitely.
The revised health guidelines are based on new science and consider lifelong exposure to the chemicals, the EPA said. Officials no longer believe that the levels of PFAS allowed under the 2016 guidelines “do not have adverse health effects,” said an EPA spokesperson.
While the new guidelines set acceptable risks below levels that can currently be measured, as a practical matter the EPA recommends that utilities take action against chemicals when they reach levels that can currently be measured. in about four parts per trillion, a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday night.
The EPA said it expects to propose national drinking water regulations for PFOA and PFOS later this year, with a final rule expected in 2023.
In a related development, the EPA said for the first time it is issuing final health advisories for two chemicals that are considered replacements for PFOA and PFOS. One group is known as GenX chemicals, while the other is known as PFBS. The health advisory for GenX chemicals was set at 10 parts per trillion, while the PFBS was set at 2,000 parts per trillion.
The agency said the new advice provides technical information that federal, state and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, Including the use of filters and other technologies that reduce PFAS and strategies to reduce exposure to the substances. ,
Environmental and public health groups called the announcement a good first step. Advocates have long urged action on PFAS after thousands of communities detected PFAS chemicals in their water. According to the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, PFAS chemicals have been confirmed in nearly 400 military installations and at least 200 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
“The EPA had the courage to follow the science. It’s a step in the right direction,” said Stall Bailey, co-facilitator of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition.
“The science is clear: These chemicals are toxic in extremely small amounts,” said Eric Olson, senior strategic director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He called on the EPA to regulate all PFAS chemicals “with enforceable standards as a class of chemicals.”
Read more: EPA unveils strategy to control toxic ‘forever chemicals’
Environmental Working Group legislative counsel Melanie Benesh said the EPA’s announcement should “set off alarm bells for consumers and regulators alike.” She urged the EPA to “move very quickly to dramatically reduce the risk of these toxic chemicals.”
The American Chemistry Council, which represents major chemical companies, said in a statement that it supports the development of drinking water standards for PFAS based on the best available science, declaring the EPA “its accepted practice to ensure reflects the agency’s failure to comply with the scientific integrity of its process.”
While the advisories are non-binding, “they will have broad implications for policies at the state and federal levels,” the group said. “These new levels cannot be achieved with existing treatment technology and are, in fact, well below those levels that can be reliably detected using existing EPA methods.”
Chemours Co., a DuPont spinoff that uses so-called GenX chemicals to produce high-performance fluoropolymers used in semiconductors, mobile phones, hospital ventilators and other products, has been described by the EPA as “fundamentally flawed”. “It is called.
The EPA “disregarded the relevant data and issued a health advisory contrary to the agency’s own standards and this administration’s commitment to scientific integrity,” Chemours said in a statement.
The company is “already using state-of-the-art technologies at our sites to reduce emissions and address historical releases,” Chemours said, adding that officials are evaluating next steps, “including potential legal action,” the EPA’s scientific report said. To address the utterly baseless action.”
A North Carolina state investigation found that Chemours had discharged GenX from its Fayetteville Works plant into the Cape Fear River for years. EPA chief Regan was the state’s top environmental official when the investigation began and led the talks that resulted in the clean-up of the river. Gov. Roy Cooper and his current environmental chief unveiled a three-pronged strategy last week that addresses efforts to reduce and improve a wide range of PFAS chemicals in water sources.
Legislation passed by the House would establish a national drinking water standard for PFAS and direct the EPA to develop discharge limits for a range of industries suspected of releasing PFAS in water. The bill has stalled in the Senate.