STATEMENT: EPA sets limits for toxic “forever chemicals” in drinking water

Media Contacts
Sara Fraser

Former Campaign Associate, Environment Colorado

WASHINGTONThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday finalized limits on six per- and polyfluorinated substance (PFAS) chemicals (or mixtures thereof) in drinking water. The EPA also announced the release of $1 billion in funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law to address PFAS contamination of drinking water, including testing and treatment of private wells, which are common in rural areas.

PFAS contaminate the drinking water of millions of Americans, including Coloradans. Known as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment and human body, PFAS exposure, even in small amounts over time, is linked to serious health problems including cancer, thyroid disruption and reduced vaccine response, according to EPA. The final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation ensures safer drinking water for roughly 100 million Americans and “will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses,” according to EPA.

Given the high toxicity of PFAS, the new rule requires utilities to reduce these six toxic substances to very low levels in drinking water. The rule also requires utilities to inform the public about contaminated drinking water.

The new rule underscores the importance of phasing out PFAS from the source, before they get into our drinking water. Colorado lawmakers have already banned PFAS from products like carpets, furniture, cosmetics, juvenile products, some types of food packaging, and the fluids used in oil and gas production. They are now considering a bill that would phase out these harmful forever chemicals from additional products like cookware, dental floss, menstruation products, and ski wax. 

“The EPA is taking a vital step toward protecting our drinking water from the toxic scourge of PFAS – including assistance for rural Americans” said Sara Fraser, Environment Colorado Associate. “Hopefully, this rule also reinforces the message that it is time to stop using these chemicals in the first place. This is why Colorado needs to act and cut these chemicals off at the source before they contaminate our water.”

“For decades, the chemical industry has polluted our communities with toxic ‘forever chemicals’ and put our health at risk,” said Executive Director of CoPIRG Danny Katz. “EPA’s new drinking water standards will help reduce exposure to these toxic chemicals, but we need Colorado to continue to be a leader and use every tool in our toolbelt to protect our families from PFAS. We need to phase out PFAS from the source as quickly as possible.”