EPA continues hand-wringing on toxic PFAS “forever” chemicals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just released its long-awaited plan for dealing with a class of toxic chemicals known as PFAS—perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—which is found in everything from food packaging and cookware to fabric and cosmetics. But despite the agency’s own back-patting, its "action plan" actually details very little action at all. The EPA says it will propose a regulatory determination on PFAS later this year, but enforceable standards could still be five, even ten, years down the road. Meanwhile, PFAS continues to make its way into drinking water supplies and our bodies, where they persist for long periods of time. As it stands, the U.S. Federal Drug Association banned only three of the worst kinds of PFAS from food packaging, but for literally thousands of other PFAS, it is a free-for-all without any rules governing their use or potential warnings to consumers. That’s very concerning, considering PFAS exposure, even at low levels, has been linked to a range of serious illnesses, including various forms of cancer and thyroid and liver disease. Studies have also shown that PFAS cause lower fertility in women; harm to developing fetuses, infants, and children; higher cholesterol; and weakened immune systems. These “forever chemicals” are already plenty well understood to take action now— real action, not kicking the can down the road.


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