EPA: Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ levels in drinking water should be much lower

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group today applauds the Environmental Protection Agency for proposing new lifetime health advisories, or LHAs, that suggest levels of four “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in drinking water should be significantly lower.

The EPA on Wednesday announced 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.

The four LHAs are:

  • 0.004 parts per trillion, or ppt, for PFOA
  • 0.02 ppt for PFOS
  • 10 ppt for GenX chemicals
  • 2,000 ppt for PFBS

Previously, the EPA had set an LHA for PFOA and PFOS of 70 ppt. 

“Today’s announcement should set off alarm bells for consumers and regulators,” 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.”

“EPA’s new health risk assessment for these PFAS chemicals is a dramatic departure from the agency’s original position and a stark reminder just how toxic they are to human health at very low levels,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D, VP for Science Investigations at EWG.

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. EWG is urging the agency to move faster to set the drinking water standard for these PFAS, and quickly set standards for others, including PFBS and Gen-X.

“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.

Tell Congress: Stop the PFAS Contamination Crisis

We need your help to protect our water from toxic PFAS chemicals.

EWG also urged the Department of Defense to move quickly to clean up PFAS-contaminated military installations. EWG released a report yesterday documenting the slow pace of cleanups at 50 of the most contaminated DOD sites.

Last week, EWG also released a Federal PFAS Report Card that tracks dozens of PFAS-related actions the Biden administration has committed to take, or actions required by Congress, and finds several actions are behind schedule.

“Consumers can also take steps to reduce their exposure to PFAS, such as installing water filters, avoiding stain- and water-resistant products, and avoiding other household products made with PFAS,” Benesh said.

“And manufacturers should move more quickly to phase out non-essential uses of PFAS, such as PFAS in carpets, clothing, cosmetics, cleaners and other goods we bring into our homes and businesses,” she added.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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