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EPA Proposes First Drinking Water Standards for Toxic PFAS

EPA's proposal would regulate six widely used chemicals within the class of thousands of PFAS


Zahra Ahmad,, (517) 898-0924

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed the first nationwide limits on the amount of six highly toxic PFAS chemicals allowed in drinking water. This proposal would reduce people’s exposure to serious health risks and prevent thousands of premature deaths.

EPA’s proposed standards cover six PFAS that have contaminated drinking water supplies nationwide: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFBS, PFHxS, and GenX. For PFOA and PFOS, EPA proposed a binding drinking water limit of four parts per trillion per chemical. For the other four PFAS, EPA proposed a binding limit based on a hazard index designed to address those chemicals’ cumulative effects.

“For the millions of people with PFAS in their tap water, strong national drinking water standards cannot come soon enough,” said Earthjustice attorney Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz. “Today’s proposal is a necessary and long overdue step towards addressing the nation’s PFAS crisis, but what comes next is equally important. EPA must resist efforts to weaken this proposal, move quickly to finalize health-protective limits on these six chemicals, and address the remaining PFAS that continue to poison drinking water supplies and harm communities across the country.”

PFAS are a toxic class of more than 12,000 chemicals that persist in the environment and build up in the human body over time. Despite their severe health effects, including cancer, reproductive and developmental harm, and immune system suppression, PFAS remain widespread and are estimated to contaminate the drinking water supplies of approximately 200 million people in the United States. In 2022, EPA issued health advisories finding serious risks from “any detectable level of PFOA or PFOS” in drinking water, with the most significant risks to young children.

More than 95% of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Companies manufacture PFAS chemicals to produce non-stick, waterproof, and other products, including cosmetics, personal care products, food packaging, and firefighting foam. Industry’s widespread use of PFAS has poisoned people’s drinking water, a significant pathway of exposure to this class of toxic chemicals. People drinking PFAS-contaminated water are at risk of experiencing cancer, thyroid disease, hormone imbalance, and reproductive issues.

Earthjustice is working to end PFAS pollution and remove toxic chemicals from our daily lives by fighting in court, working with Congress, and working with communities nationwide.

See a summary and status of EPA’s PFAS roadmap.

Quotes from our clients:

“We are overwhelmed with joy at EPA’s new proposed PFAS drinking water standards,” said Environmental Justice Task Force Founder Linda Robles. “EPA is proposing to regulate six PFAS chemicals in our drinking water, including PFOA and PFOS, and will consider cumulative risk impacts of multiple mixtures of the toxic chemicals. People in our south-side Tucson community drink, bathe and cook with water contaminated by PFAS because we can’t afford to leave our homes and relocate at the drop of a dime. The harm caused to our health by PFAS contamination in our drinking water transcends generations. Let’s continue our advocacy throughout the process of this initiative and give it the teeth it needs to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.”

“The EPA delivered what no previous administration has done by taking an immense first step in addressing our nation’s PFAS contamination in drinking water crisis,” said Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water Co-Founder Laurene Allen. “By regulating these toxic chemicals on a federal level, the EPA has ensured that a community’s exposure and health risks will no longer be ignored and no longer differ by state.”

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