New York – The Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out its first-ever proposal to regulate “forever chemicals,” formally known as “PFAS” in drinking water, after finding the substances pose significant health risks. The agency predicts that the regulations could “prevent thousands of deaths.”
The proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation would create legally enforceable levels for six types of PFAS (polyfluorinated alkyl substances) in public drinking water. PFAS are a group of manmade chemical compounds that are nearly indestructible, earning them the “forever chemicals” nickname. PFAS have been used since the 1940’s in various household objects like nonstick cookware, clothes, planes, and fire extinguishers.
The CDC says high PFAS levels in the body can lead to liver damage, decreased fertility, decreased vaccine response in children, and even an increased risk of certain types of cancer. Iowa State University Professor Joe Charbonnet points out that most Americans have PFAS in their blood already.
“Even if we’re exposed to very, very low concentrations, we see negative health impacts, things like kidney cancer, testicular cancer, lowered immune responses, issues with cholesterol, reproductive health,” Charbonnet said.
Still, he says, the recent EPA crackdown is no need for panic.
“We do have some of the best quality tap water at affordable prices here in the U.S.,” Charbonnet said. “And this is just part of the process to make sure that we stay in the enviable position.”
The EPA estimates that the cost of the regulation could reach up to $1.2 billion every year, and local water treatment systems would have to implement the rules. Charbonnet emphasizes that not every water supply would have to make changes to meet the regulations.
The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), however, is still concerned about those systems that will need to bear the burden. Their CEO Tim Dobbins telling Fox News, “The Polluters should be paying this cost, not the rate payers.”
Many, including Charbonnet and Dobbins, point out that these regulations are tackling the issue of PFAS contamination downstream of the original source. There is a growing movement to stop using PFAS in manufacturing in the first place.
In fact, the AMWA recently endorsed a bill that would hold polluters accountable for PFAS cleanup costs. Charbonnet also points out that people concerned about ingesting PFAS can choose to use PFAS-free products by checking out PFAS Central.org.
The EPA aims to finalize the regulations by the end of this year and is holding a public comment hearing in May.
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