Historic PFAS Drinking Water Regulations Proposed by EPA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to set limits on the amounts of six toxic “forever” chemicals found in drinking water. Once finalized, this would mark the first time in 26 years that the EPA has regulated a new drinking water contaminant on its own initiative; all other EPA standards were issued after Congress ordered the agency to act. The six chemicals are PFOA and PFOS (which will be regulated individually at 4 parts per trillion each) and PFBS, PFNA, PFHxS, and GenX (which will be regulated as a mixture using a “hazard index” approach). These six chemicals are part of a larger class of chemicals called PFAS, infamous for their extreme persistence, widespread pollution and potential to cause health and environmental harm at astonishingly low levels.
Following is reaction from PFAS experts:
“Regulating these six highly toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water is a historic start to protecting our families and communities. In addition to setting strict standards for two legacy toxic forever chemicals, EPA is proposing an innovative first step toward addressing PFAS as a class in drinking water. We cannot safeguard public health until we get off this toxic treadmill of regulating one PFAS at a time when thousands of other PFAS remain unregulated. PFAS chemicals can be highly toxic at extremely low levels and exposure has been linked to a long list of health effects, including cancer, immune suppression, and developmental harms. Our most vulnerable community members, especially children and pregnant people, are especially at risk from PFAS chemicals.” - Dr. Anna Reade, Senior Scientist, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
“Everyone deserves access to health-protective drinking water. It is a basic human right. We applaud the Biden EPA for having the courage to do what multiple administrations could not. Today is a good step towards tackling our nation's massive PFAS public health crisis by including commercially relevant PFAS like GenX. We now need every office within the EPA and all other federal agencies to use a whole of government approach to address PFAS as a class, stop all exposures at their source, make responsible parties pay for the clean-up, and give overexposed communities access to health monitoring.” - Emily Donovan, Co-Founder, Clean Cape Fear
“EPA’s groundbreaking proposal to regulate six PFAS ‘forever chemicals' for the first time is crucially important. We have a five-alarm fire. Setting strong standards will help ensure the fundamental right of every family to have safe water flowing from their kitchen tap. We must crack down on PFAS polluters. They should be required to halt further pollution, clean up the contamination they’ve already caused, and pay to treat PFAS-contaminated drinking water. Most of us learned in kindergarten that we should clean up our own messes—but it seems like big chemical corporations never learned that lesson.” - Erik D. Olson, Senior Strategic Director for Health, NRDC
Key Solutions to the PFAS Crisis:
- Stop adding to the PFAS problem by immediately ending all non-essential uses of PFAS and quickly developing alternatives for currently unavoidable uses.
- Manage PFAS as a class, rather than as 12,000 individual chemicals.
- Coordinate action amongst water utilities and state and local governments to quickly remediate PFAS contamination in drinking water, while making sure that these actions do not contribute to a water affordability crisis that raises water rates beyond what is possible for low-income residents to pay. This would include:
- Holding polluters accountable by requiring them to pay for cleanup and the cost of delivering safe water to impacted communities; and
- Establishing a water affordability program including structuring water rates to ensure that low-income consumers can pay their water bills. See Water Affordability Toolkit for additional information on options to ensure water affordability.
- It’s Time to Stop the Unnecessary Use of Harmful Chemicals (January 2023)
- The Clean Energy Future: How We Get There Matters (November 2022)
- Phase Out PFAS from Global Use (May 2021)
- The Big Reveal: Hundreds of Health Studies on Next Gen PFAS (April 2021)
- The Scientific Basis for Managing PFAS as a Chemical Class (June 2020)
- Defending the Science on PFAS (June 2020)
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) 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, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.