EPA Fails to Monitor Almost Half of All “Forever Chemicals” in Drinking Water

The time period “eternally chemical” may sound ominous, however there’s a good cause for that. Formally referred to as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), so-called eternally chemical substances are utilized in a whole lot of widespread merchandise for water-proofing and stain-resistance. They’re additionally linked to an incredible variety of health problems, together with liver and fertility points.

Now, a new study printed within the journal Science of the Complete Atmosphere revealed that dozens of PFAS are quietly lurking in lots of municipalities’ consuming water — and residents may not even remember, because the Environmental Safety Company (EPA) is failing to watch virtually half of them.

Within the examine of PFAS within the water provide, researchers for the Pure Sources Protection Council (NRDC) examined water samples from communities in 16 states. Greater than two-thirds of the samples (30 out of 44) contained PFAS, and each single a kind of contaminated samples had no less than one PFAS compound that may not be captured by the EPA’s present monitoring requirements. Total, there have been 26 PFAS discovered inside the contaminated samples, 12 of which aren’t lined by the present testing strategies utilized by the EPA. The commonest PFAS found was perfluoropropionic acid (PFPrA), which like most different perfluoroalkyl acids is often present in water-and-stain-resistant coatings for furnishings, leather-based, carpets and varied materials.

“Nearly all of unmonitored PFAS discovered on this examine are newer era PFAS which might be getting used as replacements for legacy PFAS like PFOA and PFOS,” examine co-authors Dr. Katie Pelch, a scientist at NRDC and Dr. Anna Reade, a senior scientist at NRDC, informed Salon by electronic mail. “Scientists, policymakers, and regulators wrestle to maintain tempo with the speed of business’s unchecked manufacturing and use of recent PFAS. The detection of a major variety of PFAS not monitored by EPA is an element a mirrored image of this actuality.”

It isn’t uncommon for chemical firms to keep away from environmental rules by changing one banned chemical with a barely completely different different that’s nonetheless basically the identical. This apply is named regrettable substitution; as Dr. Sara Brosché, Science Advisor with IPEN, informed Salon final month, “each time considered one of these PFAS molecules are getting regulated, the business simply comes up with a brand new one that’s barely shorter or barely completely different, however it nonetheless has mainly the identical perform and the identical well being impacts.” For this reason environmentalists like these at NRDC and IPEN have known as for the EPA to ban your complete class of those harmful chemical substances as an alternative of simply particular person chemical substances.

Certainly, as Pelch and Reade informed Salon, scientists can’t say for positive whether or not the brand new PFAS are linked to well being points as a result of they’re new. That stated, PFAS as a category are linked to well being issues together with lowered sperm count in male fetuses, difficulties with pregnancies, high blood pressure, liver disease and testicular and kidney cancer, amongst different illnesses.

“Much less is thought concerning the well being harms linked to those newer PFAS, however they share chemical similarities with nicely established poisonous PFAS, main well being consultants to be involved about their potential to trigger well being harms,” Pelch and Reade defined. “With rising ranges of any PFAS publicity there may be an rising threat to public well being.”

The EPA informed Salon by electronic mail that it had not reviewed the examine and couldn’t touch upon its findings. In response to criticisms of its insurance policies for monitoring PFAS, the EPA defended its file in defending the general public from PFAS. “As new science turns into obtainable, EPA will proceed to contemplate and replace its findings by means of its regulatory processes in an effort to enhance public well being safety,” they wrote. The company additionally described their transfer to control six particular person harmful PFAS as “a key step to guard public well being by proposing to determine legally enforceable ranges for six PFAS identified to happen in consuming water, fulfilling a foundational dedication within the Company’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.”

Pelch and Reade agreed that the EPA “took a historic step by proposing sturdy requirements for six particular person PFAS. When finalized, these would be the first new requirements issued utilizing EPA’s unregulated contaminant regulatory authority since 1996, when the Protected Consuming Water Act was considerably weakened.” On the identical time, they insisted that the company “wants to control the complete class of PFAS beneath the Protected Consuming Water Act by adopting a complete PFAS consuming water commonplace. In any other case, we will probably be working on a poisonous treadmill, attempting to control 14,000 or extra PFAS and by no means ending the job.”

They added, “We’re happy to listen to that EPA is open to updating their findings and strategies — the science is at all times evolving and transferring ahead and our examine demonstrates an replace in EPA’s monitoring strategies and method is required.”

Liz Costello MPH, a PhD pupil on the College of Southern California who was not concerned within the latest examine however has studied PFAS, praised the brand new report.

“This is a crucial examine that actually highlights the difficulties in monitoring water sources for PFAS, in addition to the necessity for a lot stricter regulation than we’ve got presently,” Costello informed Salon by electronic mail. “It’s particularly putting that this examine discovered so many alternative sorts of PFAS in these samples, and that many of those are usually not included within the EPA’s monitoring necessities. The issue of PFAS contamination in our water might be a lot bigger than we beforehand thought.”

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