California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA, proposed bold new limits for the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in drinking water. The state’s Public Health Goals, submitted for public review, would form the basis for drinking water regulations for two key PFAS – PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard.
State environmental health officials are recommending a health protective limit of 7 parts per quadrillion for PFOA, and 1 part per trillion for PFOS.
The limits are significantly stricter than EWG’s recommended standards for PFAS in drinking water, and much more stringent than existing federal guidelines.
New legislation and regulation
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021 with bipartisan support. The bill would create a national drinking water standard for select PFAS chemicals, designate PFAS as hazardous substances to force the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated sites, limit industrial discharges and provide $200 million annually to assist water utilities and wastewater treatment facilities.
And Connecticut joins a growing list of states passing PFAS bans in firefighting foam and food packaging. Gov. Ned Lamont signed the new state law, which immediately bans the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam in training exercises. All uses of the foam will be banned starting on Oct. 1.
The new law will also phase out food packaging with PFAS by 2023, allowing time for manufacturers to develop safe alternatives.
New PFAS science
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revised its definition of PFAS to include any fluorinated substance that contains at least one fully fluorinated methyl or methylene carbon atom. The general PFAS definition was revised so that it would be coherent and consistent across compounds from the chemical structure point of view and can be easily implemented, so non-experts can distinguish between PFAS and non-PFAS.
- A pilot study of 150 women in Manila, Philippines, saw that women with breast cancer had significantly higher concentrations of PFAS in their urine than participants without cancer. Specifically, PFDoA, PFDA and PFHxA showed links to breast cancer.
- Researchers in Norway looked at prenatal exposure to PFAS and the risk of neurodevelopmental deficits and disorders. The study suggests that prenatal exposure to PFOA, but not PFAS mixtures, was linked to an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- A new study in Environmental Microbiology found that PFAS changed the composition of microbes in soil. PFAS exposure inhibited the bacteria’s metabolism, cell motility, and energy production and conversion, which might affect soil quality.
- Male rats chronically exposed to low levels of PFOS had elevated progesterone and testosterone levels, which caused reproductive dysfunctions, according to a new paper in Environmental Pollution.
- Blood samples from 442 Black women in Atlanta were tested for PFAS, in a new study. Researchers collected samples early and late in the women’s pregnancy, finding that PFAS may affect vitamin D biomarker concentrations.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with numerous health harms, including increased mortality from heart disease and colon cancer, and heightened risk of breast cancer, and may contribute to health disparities in the Black population.