As the EPA considers PFAS drinking water standards, the impacts of ‘forever chemicals’ become increasingly dire
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed national drinking water standards for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances are certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing the growing PFAS crisis. But as the EPA gathers feedback on the proposed standards, the impact of toxic PFAS chemicals – and where they might be hiding in everyday consumer goods – continue to underscore the importance of urgent action with a ‘whole-of-government’ approach.
We have known for some time now that exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked with numerous health complications, including thyroid issues, various cancers, auto-immune disorders and more. We also know that the family of man-made ‘forever chemicals’ have been used in a number of industrial practices, and have been found in firefighting foam and household products, like non-stick cookware, waterproof shoes and flame retardants. Research continues to find more and more sources of PFAS chemicals in consumer products, posing more risks for our health.
A recent study found PFAS chemicals in soft contact lenses revealing that 100% of 18 popular contact lens brands tested at an EPA-certified facility had ‘various levels of organic fluorine’ in them. Organic-flourine is an indicator of PFAS. Now, contact lenses join the list of PFAS-laden consumer products that already includes feminine hygiene products, yoga pants, and dental floss.
Another recent study conducted by Mount Sinai Health System found exposure to PFAS chemicals via drinking water and everyday household products can lead to reduced fertility in women of as much as 40 percent. According to the Guardian, the study considered “women’s age, education and smoking status” and “how many children they had already had.” The study did not account for PFAS levels in the women’s partners, but PFAS chemicals have been known to affect male fertility as well. To think about these chemicals being present in so many products Americans use every day is truly frightening and underscores the importance of addressing the PFAS crisis.
As momentum has built around taking action to address toxic PFAS contamination, much of the conversation has been focused on protecting drinking water – and rightfully so. Access to clean, safe, affordable water to drink is a human right and paramount to healthy communities. However, we must also expand our focus to ensure PFAS chemicals are stopped at the source and kept out of consumer products.
While there is surely much more to be done to address the PFAS crisis, the EPA’s proposed drinking water standards for PFAS would go a long way towards protecting our water resources and health. The proposed drinking water standards would set a limit for PFOA and PFOS at four parts per trillion (ppt) and a single, low standard for PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX chemicals. Tackling the PFAS crisis will require a whole-of-government approach, and the EPA implementing these standards would go a long way towards making that a reality.
The EPA is currently accepting comments for its proposed drinking water standards and Michigan LCV’s partners at the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network (GLPAN) are working to make sure these standards are fully implemented. Please take a moment to add your name to this sign on letter, which will be delivered to the EPA.