News & Insights

Epa Announces New Drinking Water Health Advisories For Pfas ‘Forever Chemicals’

On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The EPA also announced $1 billion in funding to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.

PFAS have been linked to infertility, thyroid problems, and several types of cancer. Since the 1940s, chemical makers have used the highly durable compounds to make nonstick cookware, moisture-repellent fabrics and flame-retardant equipment. Most uses of PFAS were voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers, although there are a limited number of ongoing uses. PFAS remain in the environment due to their extreme resistance to degradation.

The updated advisory levels, which are based on alleged new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFAS in water that are near zero and below the EPA’s ability to detect at this time. The new advisories cut the safe level of PFAS by more than 17,000 times what the agency had previously said was protective of public health, to now just four “parts per quadrillion.”

The agency’s new health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local agencies can use to address PFAS in drinking water. This includes water quality monitoring, optimization of existing technologies that reduce PFAS, and strategies to reduce exposure to these substances.

The EPA is preparing to propose mandatory standards for PFAS this fall. Once finalized, water utilities will be penalized if the standards are not met. The EPA is offering $1 billion in grants through the bipartisan infrastructure law to address drinking-water contamination. This is the first of $5 billion that can be used to reduce PFAS in drinking water in communities facing disproportionate impacts.