Tag Archives: chemicals regulation

From Miracles to Pariahs: Forever Chemicals

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March 2023 proposed the first federal limits on so-called forever chemicals in public drinking water…The EPA is proposing maximum allowable levels for two compounds in a class of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Known as forever chemicals because they take a long time to break down, they were used for decades in carpeting, clothing, food packaging, firefighting foam and other consumer and industrial products…Once prized as innovative substances that could resist stains, water, grease and heat, PFAS are increasingly viewed as a threat because they persist in the environment and have been found in roughly 99% of the U.S. population…

The move represents a seismic shift in the regulation of the nation’s drinking water, and will require sweeping changes for thousands of water systems that will have to test for and treat a group of chemicals that have been the subject of growing concern among public health officials and people worried about the safety of water coming from their taps.  In its new proposed rule, EPA set a limit for two types of PFAS of 4 parts per trillion each in public drinking-water systems. The EPA also said it would regulate four other PFAS chemicals by requiring treatment if the combined level reaches a certain concentration….The rule, if enacted, is likely to fuel fights over who will bear most of the cost for treatment systems in hundreds of communities. Water companies, states and communities have already filed thousands of lawsuits against companies that manufactured or used PFAS, seeking to recover costs for cleanups and filtration.

The two individual chemicals that the EPA is proposing limiting are known as PFOA and PFOS. Companies phased out their production over the past two decades, but the long-term use of firefighting foam containing them at military facilities and airports is a frequent source of drinking-water contamination, according to the EPA. The chemicals and other PFAS have also tainted water after escaping from landfills, wastewater-treatment plants and textile and other manufacturers.

Scientific understanding about the health risks from PFAS is still evolving, but a number of studies have shown links to a variety of cancers, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and other issues. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, including roughly 700 that have been used in commerce in the U.S. in recent years, according to the EPA…

Excerpt from Kris Maher, EPA Proposes Limits for ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Drinking Water, WSJ, Mar. 15, 2023

Under Chemical Attack: the Human Body

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has proposed reducing by a factor of 100,000 the tolerable daily intake of bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor that interferes with hormone systems and has been linked to disease. The huge reduction could lead to a de facto ban on the cheap and durable material in food-related uses, such making plastic water bottler or lining metal cans. And it could mark a shift in how European regulators use research findings in setting exposure limits. Traditionally, those limits have been shaped by large studies directly linking a chemical to an increased risk of disease. In this case, however, risk assessors put greater weight on smaller studies showing low levels of BPA can cause subtle changes that could lead to future health problems. This approach, if adopted widely, could justify much lower exposure limits for other chemicals.

“It’s a big deal,” says Laura Vandenberg, an endocrinologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who calls the proposed limit “a gravestone for BPA in Europe.” Environmental and public health advocates are praising the proposal, which is open for comment until 22 February. Industry groups, however, are dismayed. Plastics Europe argues EFSA ignored relevant, older studies in setting the standard…

Bisphenol A is used in many plastics, including thermal paper for receipts, but most people are exposed through food. BPA leaches out of polycarbonates used to make bottles and food containers, for example, as well as the epoxy liners used to protect steel and aluminum cans from acidic food and beverages….

In the United States, a number of groups recently urged FDA to follow EFSA’s lead and consider new limits on BPA. Others note that people are often exposed to BPA in combination with other chemicals, which could increase the risk from low doses. F

Even if Europe adopts the new standard, public health advocates worry manufacturers will replace BPA with very similar chemicals, such as bisphenol S (BPS), that have also been linked to health effects. “We don’t want to see this assessment repeated for the BPS or BPF [bisphenol F] and need more decades of risk assessment,” says Ninja Reineke, head of science at the CHEM Trust, an advocacy group that focuses on environmental and health impacts of endocrine disruptors.

To avoid that problem, many advocates have called for regulators around the world to set limits for whole classes of related compounds, rather than consider them one by one. For now, Vandenberg says, regulators are simply playing “chemical whack-a-mole.”

Excerpts from Erik Stokstad, Europe Proposes Drastic Cut of Endocrine Disruptor in Plastic, Science, Feb, 18, 2022, at 708