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U.S. Limits Toxic Chemicals in Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken decisive action to address the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the drinking water supply. This Wednesday, the agency announced the implementation of stringent limits for several common types of PFAS, often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and their ability to accumulate over time, posing serious health risks.

According to the EPA’s statement, exposure to PFAS has been linked to severe illnesses such as cancer, liver and heart damage, as well as immunological and developmental effects, especially in infants and children.

The new regulation sets limits at 4 parts per trillion for the most prevalent types, PFOA and PFOS, and 10 parts per trillion for other types of PFAS.

The announcement was made by EPA Administrator Michael Regan, in conjunction with Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, during an event in Fayetteville, North Carolina. This event holds particular significance in this region, where a significant contamination of PFAS was discovered in the Cape Fear River in 2017, the primary drinking water source for over a million people.

The EPA estimates that between 6% and 10% of the country’s public drinking water systems will need to take measures to comply with these new limits, with a three-year deadline to complete initial assessments and five years to implement solutions that reduce PFAS levels. However, some utility companies have expressed concerns about the economic impact, arguing that water rates might increase and that financially struggling companies could face additional challenges.

Despite economic concerns, the EPA emphasizes that the benefits of this regulation are significant, with the prevention of thousands of deaths and serious illnesses estimated. The annual cost of implementing the standard is projected to be around $1.5 billion, but the long-term public health benefits far outweigh this cost.