STATEMENT: EPA restricts toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Photo by Josh | CC-BY-2.0

New rule establishes 6 first-ever national limits for PFAS chemicals
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday finalized six limits on 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. They are 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 the 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 the 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.

In response to the EPA decision, experts from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center released the following statements:

“For decades, the chemical industry has polluted our communities with toxic ‘forever chemicals’ and put our health at risk,” said Emily Scarr, director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Stop Toxic PFAS campaign. “The EPA’s new drinking water standards will help reduce exposure to these toxic chemicals, but we need our state and national leaders to use every tool in their toolbelt to protect our families from exposure to the entire class of PFAS. We need to phase out PFAS use, stop their discharge and require the chemical industry to clean up their mess. Our children deserve nothing less.”

“The EPA is taking a vital step toward protecting our drinking water from the toxic scourge of PFAS — including assistance for rural Americans,” said Environment America Research & Policy Center Clean Water Director John Rumpler. “Hopefully, this rule also reinforces the message that it is time to stop using these chemicals in the first place.“