With many communities being affected by Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), the Environmental Protection Agency has taken action to regulate two PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS. They have announced that they expect to propose a regulatory determination of these chemicals by the end of the year. In the meantime, the EPA will continue to enforce a health advisory for these chemicals.
What are PFAS?
PFAS, short for Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, consists of a large group of man-made chemicals. These chemicals have been used in consumer products in a variety of industries around the world since the 1950s. Both PFAS chemicals are very tenacious in the environment and in the human body. The chemicals do not break down and can accumulate over time, leading to potential health issues.
PFAS can be found in:
- Drinking Water
- Commercial Household Products (nonstick cookware, food packaging materials, cleaning products)
- Stain resistant carpet treatment
- Paints, varnishes, and sealant
Health Risks of PFAS
Since PFAS are found in a variety of consumer products inside and outside of the home, most people have been exposed to these chemicals at some point. There are studies that indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause health issues such as:
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Low infant birth weight
- Effects on the immune system
- Increased risk of cancer (from PFOA exposure)
- Thyroid hormone disruption (from PFOS exposure)
EPA Takes Action
In order to protect the health of the public, the EPA has taken a proactive approach to address the concerns and effects of PFAS exposure. By implementing an Action Plan to reduce the amount of PFAS exposure, the EPA will work closely with other federal agencies, states, tribes, industry groups, associations, local communities, and the public to tackle the challenges with PFAS in the environment.
The 8 key actions for PFAS-Related Challenges are as follows:
- Expand the toxicity information for PFAS
- Develop new tools to distinguish PFAS in the environment
- Evaluate clean approaches
- Develop guidance to aid cleanup of contaminated groundwater
- Implement enforcement tools to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assist states in enforcement activities
- Use legal tools to prevent future PFAS contamination (such as those in TSCA)
- Address PFAS in drinking water using regulatory tools
- Develop new tools and materials to communicate about PFAS
Reduce Exposure Risk
If you live near known sources of PFAS contamination, there are ways to reduce your risk of exposure. If there are PFAS present in your drinking water or in the environment around you, reduce your risk of exposure by:
- Using bottled water for activities where you may ingest water, such as drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, and preparing infant formula
- Check for fish advisories in areas where you fish
- Read consumer product labels and avoid those with PFAS
For more information on EPA’s Action Plan, visit https://www.epa.gov/pfas/epas-pfas-action-plan