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More than 2,000 communities have drinking water with 'forever chemicals' above new EPA levels

  • More than 2,000 communities have drinking water with 'forever chemicals' above new EPA levels

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People living in more than 2,000 communities are drinking water with levels of the toxic forever chemicals known as PFAS that are above new health advisories released today by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA today proposed new lifetime health advisories, or LHAs, that suggest levels of four PFAS in drinking water should be significantly lower.

The EPA updated LHAs for PFOA and PFOS the two most notorious PFAS. It also announced new LHAs for PFBS and Gen-X LHAs provide information on contaminants in drinking water that can harm people throughout their lives.

  • Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOA = 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt)
  • Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOS = 0.02 ppt
  • Final Health Advisory for GenX chemicals = 10 ppt
  • Final Health Advisory for PFBS = 2,000 ppt

An EWG analysis found PFOA and PFOS had been detected above these levels in the drinking water of 2,013 communities serving more than 43 million people.

Drinking water systems with PFAS detections above the new LHA’s:

  • PFOA: 1781 systems
  • PFOS: 1503 systems
  • HFPO-DA: 9 systems
  • PFBS: none

“No one should have to worry about the safety of their drinking water,” said Melanie Benesh, EWG’s legislative attorney. “These proposed advisory levels demonstrate that we must move much faster to dramatically reduce exposures to these toxic chemicals.”

EWG estimates that more than 200 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with PFAS.

PFAS are toxic at very low levels and have been linked to serious health problems, including increased risk of cancer and harm to the reproductive and immune systems. The chemicals are used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings for a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications. 

The EPA has committed to setting an enforceable drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS by the end of 2023. But the agency has not set deadlines to stop polluters from discharging PPAS.

“The EPA must move quickly to set limits on industrial discharges of PFAS into the air and water, require testing for sludge that may be contaminated with PFAS, immediately designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under our federal cleanup laws, and properly dispose of PFAS wastes,” Benesh said.

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