U.S. issues new warnings on ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water
June 16, 2022
2 min read
The US Environmental Protection Agency released new warnings on forever chemicals. Read to know what they are and how they harm despite being at undetectably low levels.
What are forever chemicals?
On Wednesday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new warnings for synthetic pollutants in drinking water known as “forever chemicals”. They are harmful even at low and undetectable levels.
The family of toxins is known as PFAS i.e., per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. The subset of fluorinated chemicals contains strong carbon-fluoride bonds. They break down extremely slowly, if ever, and build up over time in the environment and our bodies.
They have been used for decades in household products such as non-stick cookware, stain- and water-resistant textiles, and in firefighting foam, and industrial products.
Scientists have linked some PFAS to cancers and liver damage. Additionally, they are also linked with health issues such as low birth weight.
What is the new EPA regulation?
The chemicals which do not break down easily, are not yet regulated. The agency is set to issue proposed rules in the coming months to regulate PFAS. Until the regulations come into effect, the advisories are meant to provide information to states, tribes, and water systems to address PFAS contamination.
The updated drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) replace the ones EPA issued in 2016. The advisory levels, based on new science that considers lifetime exposure, indicate that some health problems may still occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below EPA’s ability to detect.
“Today’s actions highlight EPA’s commitment to use the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health, and provide critical information quickly and transparently,” said Radhika Fox. Fox is WPA’s assistant administrator for water.
They are also encouraging entities to find forever chemicals in drinking water and inform resistents. “Individuals concerned with PFAS found in their drinking water should consider installing a home filter,” stated the agency. However, the American Chemistry Council industry group is claiming the EPA’s method for developing advisories is “fundamentally flawed” due to the rushed notice.