Statement: EPA advises stronger limits on levels of toxic PFAS chemicals to protect Georgians’ health

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Atlanta — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Wednesday new health advisories for four of the most common toxic PFAS chemicals that pollute drinking water nationwide. These official EPA actions “provide technical information to drinking water system operators, as well as federal, state, Tribal, and local officials, on the health effects, analytical methods, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contaminants.” In addition, the EPA announced the first round of funding to help clean up these so-called “forever chemicals” in public water systems. However, the EPA does not have the authority to enforce any PFAS standard associated with the health advisory.

PFAS, a class of more than 12,000 toxic chemicals, are used to add grease- and water-resistant properties to many consumer products, including food packaging, carpets and clothing. They have threatened waterways and drinking water in Georgia from the Conasauga to the Ogeechee but until now, the federal regulatory body has only set health advisory levels for two types of PFAS: PFOA and PFOS. The advisories’ new suggested maximum levels of all four relevant PFAS are lower than previous thresholds. For PFOA and PFOS, the new standards are dramatically lower — acknowledging the toxicity of these chemicals at extremely low levels.

At the same time, the EPA included health advisory recommendations for the maximum levels of two other types of PFAS: PFBS and GenX. The development of stronger, more comprehensive health advisories, as well as the funding of the clean-up, are part of the agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, designed to address growing PFAS contamination throughout the United States.

The manufacture, use and disposal of products containing PFAS has tainted drinking water sources for 200 million Americans. Known as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment and human body, PFAS, even when people are exposed in small amounts over time, have been linked to serious health problems, including kidney and liver disease, birth defects and cancer.

In response, Environment Georgia’s director Jennette Gayer issued the following statement::

“It’s already well established that PFAS pollution is widespread across the country,” said Jennette Gayer, director with Environment Georgia. “While the EPA’s new health advisories for PFAS in drinking water take us in the right direction, the agency is still falling short of addressing the entire class of more than 12,000 PFAS chemicals. There is really only one way out of this toxic morass: We need to phase out the use of toxic forever chemicals as soon as possible.”

staff | TPIN

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