WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill introduced in the House today would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set a health-protective legal limit in drinking water for the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, which contaminate a rapidly growing roster of hundreds of public water systems nationwide.
The Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act (H.R. 2377), authored by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), would amend the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to require EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to set a Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, for all PFAS chemicals within two years. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Dan Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
There are currently no federally enforceable standards for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. In February, Wheeler released the Trump administration’s toothless “PFAS Action Plan,” which failed to set a clear timeline for implementing a drinking water MCL for PFAS chemicals.
“If the EPA won’t do its job and help communities stop the flow of PFAS-contaminated water into homes, schools and businesses, Congress must force them to act,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Refusing to tackle this drinking water crisis head-on, while millions of Americans are being exposed to these dangerous chemicals, clearly shows the Trump administration will not clean up this mess unless it’s forced to by law.”
According to an analysis of federal and state data by EWG, more than 1,500 drinking water systems serving up to 110 million people may be contaminated with two fluorinated chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS, and similar fluorine-based compounds in the PFAS family of chemicals.
PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard, have been linked in numerous studies to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity and other serious health problems. A legal limit covering the entire class of chemicals is needed because some have been linked to similar health effects and the vast majority have not been studied for safety.
Last year, EWG and researchers from the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, at Northeastern University, released a report showing that 172 locations in 40 states were known to have PFAS-contaminated tap water. Next week, that report will be updated with new information showing that the number of places with PFAS-polluted tap water has soared.
EWG is calling on the Trump administration and Congress to take a series of steps to protect the public from further exposure to PFAS chemicals, including setting an enforceable MCL for total PFAS in tap water.
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.