In 2019, in the absence of enforceable federal limits, New Hampshire became one of the first states to set its own drinking water standards for the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.
But so far, the Department of Defense has refused to comply with these new state standards – reinforcing the department’s long history of putting service members and nearby communities at risk from PFAS, a large family of fluorinated chemicals, some of which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, immune system damage and other serious health problems. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that communities living near current or former military sites had, on average, significantly higher levels of PFAS in their blood than the average American.
Shortly after New Hampshire’s standards went into effect, state officials notified the Air Force, which ran the former Pease Air Force Base in Newington, N.H, about the state standards, which are tougher than the advisory levels set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
After reviewing the impacts of PFAS on the body, including harm to the immune system, reduced fertility, altered lipid metabolism and liver toxicity, New Hampshire officials set legal limits for PFAS in drinking water between 11 parts per trillion, or ppt, and 18 ppt – far lower than the 70 ppt health advisory levels the EPA set in 2016 for the two most notorious members of the chemical family, PFOA and PFOS.