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EPA Admits Real Danger of PFAS With New Health Advisories
A Big Victory For ALL Those Dealing With These Toxic Forever Chemicals!
It was a big day in water!
In case you didn’t know, the 3rd National PFAS Conference started today in Wilmington, North Carolina. This gathering brings together research, community, and legislative perspectives to discuss how best to address PFAS contamination.
It’s a fitting location as for decades DuPont dumped toxic PFAS into North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. The local community continues to suffer the health consequences—and fight back.
It all began in 2017 when the Wilmington StarNews broke a story about the rampant contamination of the region’s drinking water supply by a chemical called GenX, a new generation of chemical designed to be a safer alternative to PFOA.
At the time my inbox became flooded with concerns from people living there. Little was known about GenX then, but North Carolina governor Roy Cooper did take action (thanks to a vocal community) to block the company from continuing to dispose of this chemical in the water supply.
Years later, the Cape Fear River watershed—which supplies drinking water for about 350,000 North Carolinians—remains contaminated with the perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that DuPont, and its spin-off, Chemours, dumped into the river for decades. a new generation of chemical designed to be a safer alternative to PFOA.
We didn’t know the long-term health effects of GenX then because we didn’t have the studies, but DuPont had short-term research that showed it caused tumors and reproductive problems in lab animals. Like its predecessors, GenX did not belong in our public drinking water systems.
Pollution should never be a public experiment!
The EPA issued a statement back then: “While EPA has not established a drinking water regulation, health advisory or health-based benchmark for GenX in drinking water, the agency is working closely with the states and public water systems to determine the appropriate next steps to ensure public health protection.”
New Health Guidelines
Well, the good news is that today, at the National PFAS conference, the EPA announced final health advisory guidelines for GenX chemicals at 10 ppt. That’s a huge step in the right direction for this community.
The new proposed levels are:
Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOA = 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt)
Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOS = 0.02 ppt
Those drinking-water concentrations represent “really sharp reductions” from previous health advisories set at 70 parts per trillion in 2016, Erik Olson, a senior strategic director for the Natural Resources Defense Council told The Washington Post. The announcement, he added, sends “an important signal to get this stuff out of our drinking water.”
An Environmental Working Group analysis found PFOA and PFOS had been detected above these levels in the drinking water of 2,013 communities serving more than 43 million people.
Drinking water systems with PFAS detections above the new LHA’s:
PFOA: 1,781 systems
PFOS: 1,503 systems
Again, health advisories are non-enforceable, but they can provide technical information that federal, state, and local officials can use to inform the development of monitoring plans, investments in treatment solutions, and future policies to protect the public from PFAS exposure.
The EPA has committed to setting enforceable drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS by the end of 2023, but the agency has not set deadlines to stop polluters from discharging PFAS.
The agency also announced that it is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion, the first of $5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funding, to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities.
“Today’s actions highlight EPA’s commitment to use the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health, and provide critical information quickly and transparently,” announced EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox at the Wilmington conference.
“Something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, an agency saying that a level is too high. What we’ve seen is impacted communities worldwide make an incredible change. A testament of people standing up and speaking out demanding things be different.”
These are powerful words from today by my friend @RobertBilott, a corporate defense attorney turned environmental crusader, who represented a cattle farmer from Parkersburg, West Virginia, in a suit against Dupont. The story was portrayed in the 2019 American legal thriller Dark Waters.
Not surprisingly, The American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade group, said in a statement that it supports developing enforceable standards for these compounds, but it also faulted the EPA for issuing the advisories before outside experts on the agency’s Science Advisory Board had finished reviewing the underlying research, suggesting the process is “fundamentally flawed.”
Snore, I’m so incredibly bored by industry flacks acting like they care about anything other than their pocketbooks.
Today’s news is huge for the people who have been fighting for so long.
EWG estimates that more than 200 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with PFAS. The industry who polluted us should be footing the bill for clean-up.
So many communities are depending on real change. I’m hopeful we are a few steps closer!
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