The proposal targets six PFAS – PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS, PFNA, and PFHxS.
While these are the first federal proposed drinking water limits for PFAS, 10 states already have final or interim enforceable drinking water limits for PFAS.
The announcement by the EPA is historic progress, said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy organization.
“More than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their tap water, said Faber. “Americans have been drinking contaminated water for decades. This proposal is a critical step toward getting these toxic poisons out of our water.
The EPA also set a maximum contaminant level goal, a level at which the EPA determines that no adverse health effects would occur.
Rob Bilott, the attorney who uncovered the widespread presence of PFAS chemicals and whose story is told in his book “Exposure” and the movie “Dark Waters,” said the proposed standards are a huge victory for public health in this country.
“EPA is finally moving forward to protect drinking water across the United States by proposing federally enforceable limits on some of the most toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulative chemicals ever found in our nation’s drinking water supply,” Bilott said.
PFAS have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, immune system damage, and other serious health problems even at low levels. The EPA has known about the risks from PFAS since at least the 1990s.
The EWG estimates there could be nearly 30,000 industrial polluters releasing PFAS into the environment, including into sources of drinking water. In January, the EPA delayed proposed rules limiting discharges of PFAS from certain industries.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA has until September 3, 2024, to finalize the new drinking water standards. Drinking water utilities will then likely have three to five years to comply. Congress provided funding in the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law to address PFAS in drinking water.
In addition to the EWG, other environmental and health organizations are supporting the proposed standards including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defend Our Health, the Environmental Protection Network, the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Clean Water Action, PIRG, The Endocrine Society, Riverkeeper, and the League of Conservation Voters.
However, industrial groups are expected fight hard against the proposal and spend millions to defeat it.
The EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rules for 60 days before it will take effect.
To reduce your PFAS exposure, avoid nonstick cookware and water resistant products and sprays, remove delivered food and fast food from containers before reheating, and filter your water with activated carbon or reverse osmosis.