2022 EPA Update for PFOA and PFOS in Drinking Water
The EPA updated its drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFOS) on June 15, 2022, replacing the advisory issued by the agency in 2016. The updated advisory levels indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero. The interim health advisories will remain in place until EPA establishes a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for PFAS.
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Consumer Reports Investigation Finds PFAS in Most U.S. Drinking Water Supplies
An investigation published by Consumer Reports  in March 2021 found PFAS in the vast majority of drinking water samples from water systems across the country. With the announcement of the new health advisory levels, EPA has dramatically lowered the acceptable levels of PFOA (.004 parts per trillion) and PFOS (.02 parts per trillion) and has set new health advisory levels for two other PFAS.
“It is a stunning victory for science because EPA is now on record as saying that these are the safe levels in drinking water,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “It will be difficult for them to deviate from these levels when the agency does set legally binding levels.”
Is the EPA Advisory on PFAS Legally Binding?
EPA Health advisories are not legally enforceable limits but are instead meant to inform public health decision-makers and state agencies about the adverse human health impacts of contaminants like PFAS in drinking water. State and local regulators may use these levels to guide monitoring for PFAS, inform residents about PFAS contamination, and try to take steps to reduce exposure to these chemicals.
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What's Next for Drinking Water Regulations?
While many experts have praised the EPA’s new stronger recommendations for PFAS in drinking water, many say the advisory falls short, as it does not address the nearly 9,000 other PFAS.
“There are so many PFAS beyond the four that EPA addressed through the [health advisories], including thousands for which we have sufficient evidence to support the idea they should be regulated as a class,” said Julia Varshavsky, Ph.D., an assistant professor of environmental health at Northeastern University. Regulating PFAS as a class would mean federal regulations designed to address PFAS as a broad category, instead of looking at individual chemicals one by one.
Plus, Varshavsky notes, EPA action on drinking water doesn’t affect other potential sources of exposure to PFAS, like food packaging, dental floss, and diet.
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