EUROPE – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has introduced the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect Americans from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often dubbed as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and the human body.

This regulation comes amidst growing concerns over the health risks posed by PFAS contamination in drinking water sources across the country.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a myriad of health issues, including cancer, liver and heart damage, and developmental abnormalities in infants and children. With an estimated 100 million Americans affected by PFAS exposure, the new standard is poised to significantly mitigate health risks and prevent thousands of illnesses and deaths.

The new regulation establishes legally enforceable levels for five prominent PFAS compounds, including PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, and GenX Chemicals, both individually and in mixtures.

Markedly, EPA has set a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal of zero for PFOA and PFOS, reflecting the latest scientific evidence regarding their detrimental health impacts.

To ensure effective implementation, EPA has allocated U.S$1 billion in funds for PFAS testing and clean-up efforts in state, territory, and private drinking water supplies.

With approximately 6 to 10 percent of public water systems expected to take action to reduce PFAS levels, all systems have three years to conduct initial monitoring and five years to implement solutions where necessary.

Technology and flexibility

Drinking water systems have been granted flexibility in adopting solutions tailored to their communities, with available technologies including granular activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange systems.

Examples such as the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s successful deployment of granular activated carbon underscore the feasibility of meeting the new standards.

In tandem with the regulation, EPA is launching a series of webinars to educate the public, communities, and water utilities about PFAS and the new drinking water standards. Additionally, a toolkit of communication resources has been made available to aid in raising awareness about PFAS risks and mitigation strategies.

EPA’s historic regulation marks a significant milestone in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap and aligns with President Biden’s broader agenda to combat PFAS pollution. By investing in testing, treatment, and infrastructure improvements, the administration aims to address the pervasive threat posed by PFAS contamination and ensure safe drinking water for all Americans.

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