Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, released on February 14 a “Comprehensive Nationwide PFAS Action Plan,” but the EPA continues to postpone its decision about setting a maximum contaminant level in drinking water for the dangerous PFAS chemicals (PFOS and PFOA). Now Wheeler says the decision about whether or not to set a maximum limit on the toxins will happen “by the end of the year.”
“PFAS” are compounds known as “polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances” (PFAS) and are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many others. Since the 1940’s, PFAS have been used in a several different industries around the world. The chemical compounds are used in many consumer products including non-stick cookware, water-repellent fabrics, de-greasing products like stain removers, grease-resistant products, paints, waxes, polishes, cleaning products and baby blankets.
PFAS are found in the foam used in fighting fires, and as such, military bases around the country have dealt with the toxic chemicals leeching into groundwater and contaminating the area around the base. PFAS has been found in drinking water and in humans, animals, and fish where they build up over time.
There has been a great deal of evidence that proves that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse effects including reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects. Adverse effects of these chemicals also include:
- Low infant birth weights
- Compromised immune system
- Cancer (for PFOA)
- Thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS)
EPA Puts Off Setting Safety Standard…Again
At the press conference last week, said the EPA’s current standard of levels of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water not exceeding 70 parts per trillion means the chemicals are set at a “safe level.” However, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, claims the safe threshold is actually much lower at only 7 parts per trillion for PFOS and 11 parts per trillion for PFOA.
A study by Harvard University and University of Massachusetts researchers concluded that the EPA’s non-binding limit “may be more than 100-fold too high.” This means that millions of Americas are drinking water that has dangerously high levels of the PFAS chemicals, and the EPA, the very agency tasked with protecting us from environmental dangers, is allowing Americans to be poisoned on a daily basis.
According to the EPA’s administrator, by the end of 2019, the agency will propose a “regulatory determination,” which is the next step legally required under the Safe Drinking Water Act to establish a “maximum contaminant level” for the chemicals.
Environmental groups, concerned citizens, and parents of sick children all over the country slammed the EPA for moving much too slowly, and several states have already moved toward setting limits on or banning PFAS altogether.