The known health effects of PFAS are concerning — forever chemicals, which are found in anything from beauty products to kitchenware, remain in your system for years. They've been linked to cancer among other health issues, and unfortunately, the EPA recently announced that the healthy limit of forever chemicals is lower than we thought: even the smallest amount can affect us.
That's why they updated previous health advisories, that PFAS levels in drinking water should be next to nothing.
"People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long," EPA Administrator Michael Regan stated, according to NPR, in regards to lowering the advised PFAS levels in drinking water.
"That's why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge."
Scientists had been pushing for a change like this for a while, so needless to say, they're satisfied with the government agency's latest update.
"The science is clear: These chemicals are shockingly toxic at extremely low doses,'' Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council also added, as per NPR.
What did the EPA do in regards to PFAS in drinking water?
On Wednesday, June 15, the EPA announced that certain PFAS aren't safe for consumption on any level, according to Star Tribune. Even though the advisory is non-binding, it urges state agencies to better monitor drinking water for PFOS, PFOA, PFBS, and GenX chemicals.
"It's further confirmation that these PFAS can be very toxic at very low levels and there's really a need to regulate them much more stringently," Melanie Benesh of Environmental Working Group stated, per Star Tribune.
"These polluters have gotten a 50-year free pass," she continued.
Health and environmental organizations have been campaigning for the U.S. government to do make this announcement for decades, so this advisory update has been warmly welcomed by most. It has, however, drawn criticism from certain government authorities, such as Jim Kelly, Minnesota Department of Health's manager. He says the new limits too low to be detected by labs, and questions how the EPA developed the new standard.
However, the state is currently taking steps to lower the amount of PFAS in drinking water.
And this is only the beginning. Though these are advisories, the EPA is planning to propose actual regulations for PFOA and PFOS for drinking water in fall 2022, along with other varieties of PFAS.
Why are PFAS so dangerous?
As previously mentioned, forever chemicals are dangerous for a number of reasons. Due to their chemical structure, they can't safely break down like other chemicals can, lasting in the environment, as well as in the bodies of people and animals, for years.
In addition to having connections to cancer and hormone disruption, it can also cause serious reproductive issues, as well as developmental issues to unborn babies.
At this point, forever chemicals are everywhere and they're difficult to avoid, but if more can policies can be made in regards to limiting and managing them, we'd be in a much better position.