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New Near-zero Health Advisories for PFAS in Water

Posted on 6/20/2022 by Lauren Scott

On June 15, 2022, EPA released drinking water health advisories for four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The advisories illustrate the level of drinking water contamination below which adverse health effects are not likely to occur. These provide valuable insight to states, municipalities, and water utilities when evaluating the status of drinking water supplies and help to inform the public when system improvements need to be made.

Health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) are set to replace EPA’s 2016 health advisories. For PFOA, the recommendation is 0.004 part per trillion (ppt) and for PFOS, 0.02 ppt. Based on the latest scientific data available, EPA has found that concentrations of PFOA and PFOS must be at “near zero” to be considered safe. Although PFOA and PFOS have been almost entirely phased out of commercial use in the US, limited exceptions remain.

EPA also issued health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and for hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (“GenX” chemicals) for the first time. In chemical and product manufacturing, GenX chemicals and PFBS are considered replacements for PFOA and PFOS respectively. The recommended limit for each of these substances is 10 ppt.

This sets the stage for additional actions to combat PFAS contamination in drinking water. EPA plans to propose a “PFAS National Drinking Water Regulation” this coming fall. The Agency is also considering action to address other PFAS beyond PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and GenX chemicals.

EPA’s National PFAS Strategy

The latest health advisories build on the work outlined in EPA’s national PFAS strategy. Outlined on October 18, 2021, EPA’s comprehensive Strategic Roadmap is intended to combat PFAS contamination nationwide. In introducing additional drinking water health advisories, the Roadmap is expected to designate PFAS as hazardous substances and lay a technical foundation on PFAS air emissions.

This builds on the work started by the EPA Council on PFAS, a body established in April 2021 to address stakeholder and community concerns regarding PFAS.

EPA has undertaken many other actions as part of its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, including:
  • Introducing a bill to designate PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances.
  • Issuing the first Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) PFAS test order.
  • Adding five PFAS to EPA’s contaminated site cleanup tables.
  • Publishing draft aquatic life water quality criteria for PFOA and PFOS.
  • Issuing a memo to proactively address PFAS in Clean Water Act permitting.

Convenient, Effective Online EHS Manager Training

Managing site compliance with the many complex EPA programs that affect your business—from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to TSCA, EPCRA, CERLCA, and more—is a major challenge. If you’re new to the field or need an update on changing EPA rules, online training is a convenient way to quickly build in-depth expertise.

The Complete Environmental Regulations online course will prepare you to identify your site's liabilities and responsibilities under major environmental laws and regulations. This course is ideal for new EHS managers, environmental consultants, and anyone who wants clarity about how complex environmental requirements fit together. 

Or check out these courses on specific EPA programs:
Clean Air Act Regulations Online
TSCA Regulations Online
Clean Water Act & SDWA Regulations Online
Superfund and Right-to-Know Act Regulations Online 

Tags: Clean Drinking Water Act, EPA, PFAS

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