Today, the U.S. EPA proposed new health advisory levels (HALs) for two toxic chemicals in drinking water: PFOA and PFOS. EPA proposed a HAL of 0.004 ppt for PFOA and a HAL of 0.02 ppt for PFOS. Health advisory levels are non-enforceable guidelines for how much of a chemical in drinking water is safe.
EPA’s newly proposed HALs are 1,000 times lower than EPA’s current health guidance of 70 ppt, and far below New York’s Maximum Contaminant Levels of 10 ppt each for PFOA and PFOS. Maximum Contaminant Levels are enforceable standards that require water utilities to clean up their drinking water if exceeded.
EPA’s announcement comes as New York is planning to regulate 23 additional PFAS chemicals in drinking water. The NYS Drinking Water Quality Council recommended new standards between 10 ppt and 100 ppt. Based on today’s announcement, the Council’s standards would not adequately protect public health – they would allow New Yorkers to continue to be exposed to dangerous contamination when they turn on the tap. The NYS Department of Health is required to propose draft regulations adopting or modifying those new standards by June 19.
Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water with Environmental Advocates NY, said, “Today, U.S. EPA confirmed that there is no safe level of exposure to the toxic chemicals PFOA and PFOS. There is no longer any doubt: wherever these “forever chemicals” are detected, they need to be removed from drinking water. Governor Hochul can quickly act by directing the Department of Health to strengthen New York’s drinking water standards on PFOA, PFOS, and other similar PFAS down to 2 ppt, the lowest level these chemicals can be reliably detected.”
PFOA and PFOS are members of the PFAS chemical family, often called “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and the human body. There are more than 9,000 PFAS, many of which are similarly toxic.