NRDC Releases Report on PFOA, Urging Prompt Regulation

Katherine Johnson, via Flickr

NRDC just released a report urging the prompt regulation of a pair of harmful drinking water contaminants known as PFOA and PFOS. 

Since the 1960s, manufacturers used PFOA or PFOS in a variety of products, including nonstick cookware (e.g., Teflon), stain-resistant repellents used on carpets and fabric (e.g., Scotchgard and Stainmaster), paper and cardboard food packaging (e.g., fast food wrappers), firefighting foam, textiles (e.g., Gore-Tex), toothpaste, shampoos, cosmetics, polishes and waxes, and many products for the aerospace, automotive, construction, and electronic industries.  

The production and use of PFOA and PFOS was so widespread that it can be found in the blood of 98% of all people worldwide. These contaminants are known to accelerate puberty, delay mammary gland development, harm the liver, increase cholesterol, lower sperm quality, and may even cause cancer, among other health effects. On top of that, once dumped into the environment, they do not degrade, and once in the human body, they do not leave for years.

Over the course of the past year, NRDC has conducted a detailed review of PFOA and PFOS contamination in order to make recommendations regarding the appropriate maximum contaminant level (MCL) in drinking water and actions that the state may take to safeguard public health. 

In today’s letter and report, we make the following three requests:

  1. New York State should establish an enforceable maximum contaminant level for PFOA and PFOS at a combined concentration below 4 – 10 parts per trillion (ppt). 
  2. New York State should look closely at the potential harms of feeding infants with breastmilk or formula or of pregnant mothers consuming water contaminated with PFOS and PFOA, as infants and fetuses are especially vulnerable to PFOA and PFOS exposure through these channels.
  3. New York State should conduct a comprehensive health assessment of residents in communities found to have elevated PFOA or PFOS concentrations in drinking water to help New Yorkers across the state understand the health risks associated with these chemicals.

These documents were submitted to the New York State Drinking Water Council today during a meeting held to discuss the regulation of these contaminants, and are just part of a larger campaign to regulate PFOA and PFOS in New York State drinking water. NRDC is, so far, the only party at these meetings to recommended an MCL. 

The work is hardly over, but we took a big step today towards safer drinking water. In the upcoming weeks and months, look out for opportunities to help protect the drinking water of millions of Americans!

About the Authors

Kimberly Ong

Staff Attorney, NY Regional, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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