Tag Archives: forever chemicals

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