By: Michael VanPaepeghem
Summary: On a federal level there is no established legal limit to the amount of PFAS in drinking water. PFAS or Per/polyfluoralkyl substances are a family of chemicals used in a variety of commercial products. Products such as household cookware, food packaging, and firefighting foams. One of the largest contributors polluting the environment is firefighting foams. When these chemicals get into drinking water they can have adverse health effects on humans, such as reproductive and developmental issues. The EPA on a federal level currently has a nonbinding advisory recommendation in place. To set enforceable limits the EPA must work through the court systems to establish policies to regulate PFAS in drinking water. There is much opposition from large corporations who are guilty of leaching these products into the environment. The opposition is due in part to the cleanup costs associated with the pollutants. PFAS have been widely used since the 1940’s. They have been on scientists/environmentalists radar since the early 2000’s as potentially harmful chemicals. In 1996 Congress revised the Safe Drinking Water Act which established the limiting of 90 contaminants in drinking water. The EPA had to and continues to enforce these 90 contaminants. To date the EPA has added no additional contaminant limits, such as PFAS, to the Safe Drinking Water Act. If the EPA decides to limit PFAS in drinking water it can take up to roughly four years before the regulation becomes law. A handful of states have taken matters into their own hands instead of waiting for the federal government. States such as Michigan, Colorado, and Vermont have initialized state guidelines, concentration limits, and health advisories. There is much work to do before the federal government implements a drinking water standard for PFAS.
Why we should care? PFAS exposure over time can have numerous health effects on humans and the environment around them. When people go to drink water they should not have to worry about the ingestion of toxic chemicals.
I found this article interesting because I personally thought there was some form of limiting in place on the federal level for PFAS. In recent years the term PFAS is widely heard and known by much of the population. Living in Michigan we all have a strong connection to the Great Lakes, it brought me some relief to see that our state has made an effort to limit these chemicals in drinking water. The other handful of states that have taken action have not been as successful as Michigan’s legal limits. Other states have only guidelines and advisories in place, leaving it up to the people as to whether or not to abide by them. The article itself was not written by a government agency which to me brought the issue at hand to a more personal level.
Science in Action.
Dr. Theodore Slotkin is Professor of Neurobiology in the Duke University School of Medicine.
Dr. Slotkin and his team wanted to study the effects of four PFAS and its health effects on the neurological level. The study was conducted on rat neuron cells in the lab and evaluated the neurotoxicity of four PFAS. Their findings exhibited that each of the chemicals impacted neurological development. I found this article to be supporting of the issue at hand due to the clear evidence of health effects PFAS have on animals and humans. The continued research conducted on the negative health effects of PFAS will build a stronger case to implement federal limits in drinking water.