‘Forever chemical’ GenX more toxic than previously acknowledged, says EPA

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency today announced that GenX, one of many “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, is hazardous at much lower exposures than the two notorious PFAS known as PFOA and PFOS.

The EPA’s toxicity assessment defines the amount of the GenX chemical – the reference dose – a person can ingest over a lifetime without suffering health harms as 25 times lower than stated in an earlier version of the review, from 2018.

The EPA says the updated stricter value, which aims to better protect public health, is in large part due to ongoing data gaps about the hazards of GenX.

The Environmental Working Group's comments to the agency in 2019 advocated for a stricter value, based on missing toxicity data and what was known about the toxicity of PFOA, PFOS and the entire class of PFAS chemicals.

“We commend the EPA for acknowledging the extreme toxicity of GenX, the lack of adequate data and the need for a more health protective value than the 2018 proposal,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews.

“This final toxicity value is an important step toward protecting those living in communities contaminated by GenX chemicals, who have been waiting for help for far too long,” said Andrews.

North Carolina has been plagued by GenX contamination of its drinking water. In 2017, the state set a provisional health goal, finding GenX levels in drinking water unsafe below 140 nanograms per liter, or parts per trillion. The EPA’s new reference dose is 33 times lower, which if used by the state could lead to a limit of 4 ppt, suggesting the state’s goal may not be sufficiently health protective.

And the EPA says that the toxicity value could change in the future, because it is currently reevaluating data that might lead to revisions of the reference doses for PFOA and PFOS.

“But the EPA must do more,” said Melanie Benesh, EWG legislative attorney. “It should use this toxicity value to require polluters to report all GenX releases, create enforceable limits on GenX emissions, get GenX out of drinking water and require cleanup of GenX at contaminated sites.”


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. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.

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