EPA’s Proposed Rules Would Severely Limit PFAS Levels Permissible in Drinking Water


Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published new proposed rules under the Safe Drinking Water Act that will severely limit the levels of certain substances of a man-made family of chemicals, collectively known as “PFAS,” permissible in drinking water. PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation Rulemaking, 88 FR 18638 (March 29, 2023).

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been linked to serious conditions such as cancer, thyroid disease, fertility issues, and liver damage. They are commonly known as “forever chemicals” because their chemical and physical properties allow them to accumulate over time and make them resistant to degradation. They break down very slowly in the environment and in the bodies of humans and animals. PFAS have been used since the 1940s and are commonly found in consumer and industrial products, such as clothing, cookware, cosmetics, food packaging, carpeting, and fire-fighting foam. Aside from direct exposure to PFAS via a consumer or industrial product, humans may be exposed to PFAS in drinking water. The high prevalence of PFAS in the environment has led them to be found in the blood of 98% of people in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The EPA’s proposed rule would limit the levels of certain PFAS in drinking water, setting the maximum contaminate level (MCL) at four parts per trillion (ppt) for two types of PFAS–PFOA and PFOS (perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, respectively). This equates to a mere 4 drops of water in an Olympic sized pool. In addition to setting the MCLs, the EPA has also proposed maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs), which unlike MCLs, are aspirational and are not enforceable limits. MCLGs are based solely on the levels that are safe for the public’s health, representing the level at which no known or anticipated adverse effects on the health of persons is expected to occur and allows an adequate margin of safety, without consideration for the feasibility and technological limitations of testing and treatment. For PFOA and PFOS, the EPA has stated that the MCLG should be zero parts per trillion, i.e., there is no safe level for humans.

Several states have already implemented limits on the amount of certain PFAS in drinking water; however, most states have not yet enacted any binding regulations. Regardless, the new EPA limits are more stringent than any current state limits. Therefore, all states will be required to take action to come into compliance with the EPA’s proposed regulations once finalized.

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JD Supra, 17-04-23
; https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/epa-s-proposed-rules-would-severely-1823963/