Proposed federal PFAS limits signal growing concern over health risks of “forever chemicals”

Federal PFAS limits are far lower, more expansive Fthan current Wisconsin standards
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 11:30 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (CLEAN WISCONSIN PRESS RELEASE) - Today the Environmental Protection Agency issued its first ever proposed limits for PFAS (per-and-poly-fluoroalkyl substances) under the Safe Drinking Water Act—limits that are far below those enacted by the State of Wisconsin late last summer.

”EPA based these public health protections on the latest science, and we appreciate the Biden Administration’s leadership to make enforceable PFAS standards a priority,” says Clean Wisconsin Water Program Director Scott Laeser. “This is a significant step in the fight against PFAS contamination, and it comes after years of tireless work from researchers and safe drinking water advocates across the country.”

The proposed drinking water standards include two of the most well-studied and concerning types of PFAS, which is a class of thousands of chemical compounds. The two chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, have been largely phased out of production and use in the United States, but they are showing up in lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater and drinking water across Wisconsin, frequently at alarming concentrations.

”PFAS are some of the most persistent chemicals in existence. They are incredibly difficult to break down. That’s why they’ve earned the nickname ‘forever chemicals,’ says Clean Wisconsin Staff Scientist Paul Mathewson. “So it’s no surprise we’re seeing PFOA and PFOS, two chemicals first manufactured in the 1940s, contaminating Wisconsin waterways today. PFAS accumulate in the environment and in our bodies when we are exposed to them primarily through contaminated water, food, or dust.”

The proposed Federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS are 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for each compound, far lower than Wisconsin’s own standard of 70 ppt combined, which took effect last August. Laeser says it was clear when those standards were passed that tougher limits would be on the way from the EPA.