The Senate held its first-ever subcommittee hearing on Sept 26th to discuss the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Recent findings of toxic levels of these chemicals found in multiple sites across numerous states have led to this monumental hearing. Many community leaders feel decisive action must be taken by the Federal Government to ensure safe drinking water for our communities.
PFAS are synthetic chemicals manufactured and used in an abundance of industries across the world. PFAS have been used in the United States since the 1940’s and are found in products including food packaging machines and materials, water-repellent fabrics, teflon cookware, and chrome plating.
PFOA and PFOS, the most researched of these chemicals, have been found to persist in the environment and in the human body. Humans are exposed to PFAS in a variety of ways, most commonly from contaminated food and water sources. Unable to be break-down, they can build up over time. Evidence exists that the accumulation of PFAS can have many potential adverse human health effects, such as increased cholesterol, development of tumors, and liver or kidney damage.
Despite testimony from community representatives affected by contaminated water and eight senators, the US EPA is “not planning currently to update our drinking water and health advisories for PFOA and PFOS,” according to Peter Grevatt, on behalf of the Groundwater and Drinking Water division of the EPA.
Grevatt reports that the EPA is exploring designating PFAS as a hazardous substance, which would allow local governments to initiate clean-ups and reprimand polluters. However, this reclassification could take years to execute.
As for now, each state is left to take action on its own. Many have begun implementing different policies with Vermont making a statement by lowering its standard to 20 ppt for five PFAS compared to the EPA standard of 70 ppt.
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