EPA Expected to Punt on Protecting Millions from Toxic Chemicals in Drinking Water

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency is refusing to issue standards that would protect the public from a group of dangerous chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) that are present at unsafe levels in drinking water, according to a report today in Politico.

At least 6 million people drink water exceeding EPA’s Health Advisory limit for just two of these chemicals, PFOA and PFOS. Communities across the nation likely have PFAS in drinking water at levels as much as hundreds of times higher than the Centers for Disease Control and independent scientists consider safe—a level far lower than what EPA has stated is acceptable.

The following is a statement from Erik Olson, Senior Director for Health and Food at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Millions of Americans are at risk of daily exposure to these highly toxic chemicals strongly suspected of causing cancer—just by drinking water from their taps.  It is absolutely unconscionable for the Trump Administration to refuse to even start the process of setting a limit on these poisonous chemicals.  Communities around the country need swift, meaningful action from the government.  Punting responsibility to the private sector and states is a total abdication of EPA’s role in protecting the American people.”

The agency was expected to formally start the standard-setting process in the coming weeks, which would yield a final standard within about four years.

Even at low levels, PFAS have been linked to a range of serious illnesses, including cancer of the kidneys and testicles, thyroid and liver disease, lower fertility in women, harm to developing fetuses, infants and children, higher cholesterol and weakened immune systems. 

PFAS, used in Teflon cookware, and aqueous firefighting foam, are ubiquitous in the environment and do not break down easily.  In addition to drinking water, these chemicals are found in food packaging and clothing, carpets, cookware and cosmetics.

For more information, Erik Olson’s recent written testimony on PFAS to a House subcommittee is here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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