A First-Of-Its-Kind Rule To Limit ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Drinking Water

April 11, 2024

There’s no doubt that these chemicals have been important for certain industries and consumer uses, but there’s also no doubt that many of these chemicals can be harmful to our health and our environment.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan referring to a “first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard” that places strict limits on “forever chemicals” in drinking water.

Why It Matters: A first-of-its-kind rule to reduce PFAS (forever chemicals) in drinking water by the federal government; some states and cities states already have their own requirements that may/may not meet the new standards. The new rule will apply to 6 of the most common PFAs; More than 12,000 PFAs exist.

Important Context: The EPA estimates “about 6% and 10% of the 66,000 public drinking water systems subject to this rule may have to take action to reduce PFAS to meet these new standards” – or roughly 100 million Americans; more than 200 million are not expected to be impacted by these new standards.

An earlier study showed “forever chemicals” in 45% of the nation’s tap water – especially near urban areas, but not all urban areas have the same challenges. For example, the city of Austin, Texas recently released a report stating “little to no detectable traces of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – or PFAS – chemicals in the City’s drinking water.” (link to report)

PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances): Chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s “to repel oil and water and resist heat, which makes them useful in everyday products such as nonstick cookware, stain resistant clothing, and firefighting foam” (EPA). Nearly all people tested for PFAs will have some in their system (CDC) and the impact of PFAs to our health remains a topic of investigation, with PFAs “linked to a variety of health problems including cancer, thyroid disease, reproductive problems and heart and liver damage among other issues.”

Water providers have about three years to test PFAS and additional time afterwards to install treatment systems. Some companies have resisted the rule and expressed concerns, such as high costs for treatment systems and possible increased water bills for customers.

Read More: Biden-Harris Administration Finalizes First-Ever National Drinking Water Standard to Protect 100M People from PFAS Pollution (Environmental Protection Agency)

EPA puts limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

Biden administration sets first-ever limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water (The Associated Press)

by Leah Grainery, based in Texas