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Environment

Chronic exposure limit set for PFOA in drinking water

EPA addresses persistent legacy chemicals linked to health problems

by Jessica Morrison
May 23, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 21

Water utilities should notify consumers when perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) exceed 70 parts per trillion—individually or combined—in drinking water, under new guidelines released on May 19 by the Environmental Protection Agency. The long-awaited advisory aims to reduce chronic exposures to the persistent fluorochemicals in drinking water. Environmental groups, which have long been pushing EPA to set a limit for the fluorochemicals in drinking water, are disappointed that the advisory is only voluntary. The agency “highlights the fact that this is a chemical that you do not want in your water or the environment,” says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy organization. “But we think [EPA] could have taken a bigger step to protect public health,” he adds. The chemicals, which were used to manufacture iconic household brands such as DuPont’s Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard, persist indefinitely in the environment and have been linked to disease in humans. More than a decade ago, the fluorochemical industry pledged to end production of PFOA and PFOS by 2015. EPA says the companies have met their stewardship commitments.

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