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EPA Finalizes First Drinking Water Standards for Toxic PFAS

The new standards will require action to clean up drinking water for tens of millions of people nationwide


Today, the first-ever national PFAS drinking water standards were finalized to reduce people’s exposure to serious health risks and prevent thousands of premature deaths.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule comes after years of community advocacy for more health-protective PFAS regulations. The government has underregulated this class of highly toxic chemicals for decades. The final rule sets drinking water limits for six widely used PFAS chemicals:  PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX.

“At last, EPA has taken powerful action to protect the tens of millions of people across the country whose drinking water is contaminated with dangerous levels of PFAS,” said Earthjustice Attorney Katherine O’Brien. “The law and science strongly support EPA’s standards, and we will advocate to ensure they are fully implemented and enforced.”

PFAS are a class of more than 12,000 widely used toxic chemicals that persist in the human body and the environment. Almost everyone in the U.S. has traces of PFAS in their body because the chemicals have contaminated the air, soil, and water — including the drinking water for approximately 200 million people nationwide. This widespread PFAS contamination has created a public health crisis because even low exposure levels can cause people to develop illnesses like thyroid problems and cancer.

Earthjustice and its clients will continue to advocate for more health-protective regulation of PFAS. In addition to addressing PFAS contamination of drinking water supplies, there are urgent steps EPA must take to regulate dangerous disposal methods that release PFAS into the environment, to stop new PFAS chemicals from entering the market, and to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up PFAS-contaminated sites across the country.

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

Quotes from our clients and partners:

“The final PFAS drinking water standards mark an important step in protecting public health from toxic contamination,” said Jessica Merricks, the co-founder of Clean Haw River. “The new standards will protect millions from the insidious health effects of these chemicals, including cancer and thyroid disease. It’s a victory for public health that’s been long overdue.”

“The final PFAS drinking water standards are a testament to the continued advocacy for everyone’s right to live, work, and play in safe environments,” said Linda Robles, the founder of the Environmental Justice Task Force. “People in my community have suffered from illness and tragedy due to PFAS contamination. Regulators owe communities stronger rules protecting them from big polluters. The new rules are a starting point.”

“For decades, our community suffered from extreme levels of PFAS, like GenX, in our tap water,” said Emily Donovan, the co-founder of Clean Cape Fear. “EPA took a historic step to addressing PFAS contamination with these new drinking water standards. I firmly believe this will improve public health for generations to come. This only happened because of the power of grassroots community groups uniting with environmental and health advocates. We will continue fighting until all exposures to PFAS are stopped.”

“Today, we celebrate a milestone in our fight to ensure clean, safe drinking water for all,” said Laurene Allen, the founder of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water. “The EPA’s action on PFAS is a testament to the power of advocacy and the relentless push for environmental justice. While this is a significant achievement, our work is far from over. We will continue to advocate for regulating all toxic PFAS chemicals.”

“PFAS contamination harms communities across the U.S., and the EPA’s final drinking water standards are a step in the right direction, one that tries to protect people not profits,” said Stel Bailey, the founder of Fight for Zero. “The fight to protect communities from PFAS exposure continues, and the EPA must stand on the right side of history.”

“Impacted communities have been raising the alarm bells and tirelessly organizing for these drinking water protections for years. This is a landmark decision that will save countless lives,” said Dana Colihan, a co-facilitator of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition. “We will continue to fight for justice for the victims of PFAS exposure, regulation of PFAS as a class, and turning off the tap of contamination to ensure a contamination crisis of this scale never happens again.”

A child fills a drinking glass with water from the faucet.
Almost everyone in the U.S. has traces of PFAS in their body because the chemicals have contaminated the air, soil, and water — including the drinking water for approximately 200 million people nationwide. (Cavan Images)

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