New National Standards to Combat 'Forever Chemicals' in Drinking Water


A Landmark Decision Aims To Safeguard Public Health From PFAS Exposure, Known as ‘Forever Chemicals'

In an announcement today, April 10, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled the first-ever national, legally enforceable standard aimed at reducing exposure to per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as 'forever chemicals.' 

PFAS, known as 'forever chemicals', have been widespread in the environment and used in products like nonstick cookware and stain-resistant clothing since the 1940s. These chemicals are linked to cancer and other illnesses after long-term exposure, with heightened risks during pregnancy and early childhood. Millions are affected by PFAS through contaminated water, food, consumer products, and workplace exposure.

This move under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) PFAS Strategic Roadmap is set to mitigate the exposure of approximately 100 million Americans to these harmful substances, potentially preventing thousands of deaths and reducing tens of thousands of serious illnesses.

“For decades, the American people have been exposed to the family of incredibly toxic ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS with no protection from their government. Those chemicals now contaminate virtually all Americans from birth,” said Environmental Working Group President and Co-Founder Ken Cook.

PFAS substances, linked to various severe health issues such as cancers, liver and heart diseases, and developmental and immune damage, especially in infants and children, have long been a concern for public health officials and communities nationwide. The final rule introduced today hopes to take a monumental step toward ensuring cleaner, safer drinking water for communities across the United States.

Aligning with President Biden's Investing in America agenda, the EPA announced nearly $1 billion in new funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to assist states and territories in implementing PFAS testing and treatment in public water systems and aiding private well owners in combating PFAS contamination. 

This initiative is part of a larger $9 billion investment dedicated to addressing drinking water affected by PFAS and other emerging contaminants, marking the largest-ever financial commitment to counteract PFAS pollution. An additional $12 billion is allocated through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for general improvements in drinking water systems to tackle other emerging harmful contaminants.

EPA's final rule establishes enforceable levels for five individual PFAS compounds and sets a collective limit for mixtures of any two or more of four specified PFAS. This regulatory approach aims to significantly reduce exposure to PFAS and resulting serious health issues. 

Public water systems nationwide have been given a three-year timeframe to conduct initial monitoring for these chemicals and five years to implement solutions to reduce PFAS in drinking water, should levels exceed the new standards.

This announcement was made in Fayetteville, North Carolina, by EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, alongside White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. Fayetteville, which discovered extensive PFAS pollution in its drinking water source in 2017, symbolizes the communities that will benefit from today's far-reaching announcements.

“We are thankful that Administrator Regan and the Biden Administration are taking this action to protect drinking water in North Carolina and across the country,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. “We asked for this because we know science-based standards for PFAS and other compounds are desperately needed.”

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan emphasized the agency's commitment to ending the public health crisis posed by PFAS contamination, asserting that today’s actions represent a decisive move to protect drinking water and public health across the nation.

“Drinking water contaminated with PFAS has plagued communities across this country for too long,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

Today's announcement addresses a critical environmental and public health challenge and reinforces the nation's dedication to environmental justice and equitable access to clean, safe drinking water. Through rigorous scientific research, substantial financial investment, and collaborative efforts at the federal, state, and local levels, the United States takes a historic step toward eradicating the threat posed by PFAS, ensuring a healthier, safer future for all.

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