The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a significant step in its strategy to combat polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals,” by proposing a national drinking water standard for six of these cancer-causing chemicals, as reported by Reuters on March 14. The proposed regulation is the first-ever national standard for PFAS and is a crucial milestone in the EPA’s fight to address these persistent and harmful chemicals in air, water, and food that have caused tens of thousands of illnesses around the country. According to the proposal, public water systems must monitor six PFAS chemicals and inform the public if PFAS levels exceed the proposed standards in drinking water supply. The public water systems must also take necessary action to reduce PFAS levels in the water.
The use of PFAS is widespread in various products, from paper to pans, to make them stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proof. PFAS are also used in industrial processes and discharged into waterways, which has caused contamination of water sources across the country. The EPA’s proposal is the first time since 1996 that drinking water standards have been proposed for a new chemical under the Safe Drinking Water Act.The Safe Drinking Water Act is a US federal law enacted in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. It authorizes the EPA to establish and enforce national drinking water standards, and it requires water systems to monitor and report on water quality to ensure the safety of public water systems.