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EPA Makes 'Forever Chemicals' a Priority With Latest Action

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Thursday, September 8, 2022   

The federal government is taking new steps to protect people in Wisconsin and other states from "forever chemicals."

PFOA and PFOS are two types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals which are used in common products such as nonstick coatings, food packaging and firefighting foam. They linger in the environment and are linked to increased cancers and other health disorders.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule which will designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous.

Jennifer Hill, associate director at the Great Lakes Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation, explained it would create a federal standard for PFAS cleanup.

"People care deeply about access to safe, clean, affordable water in the Great Lakes region, and, of course, including Wisconsin," Hill asserted. "This rule really is a step in the right direction to ensure that we're safeguarding our drinking water."

Research has shown more than 90% of Americans have PFAS in their bloodstream.

Wisconsin officials said there are dozens of contaminated sites around the state. Forever chemicals have been detected in wells and waterways in a number of cities, including Madison, Eau Claire and Rhinelander. Earlier this year, the state adopted drinking water standards tied to the chemicals.

Hill noted the National Wildlife Federation's research on the impact of PFAS in the Great Lakes Region suggests reduced reproductive success in bird species and other negative health impacts in fish and other wildlife.

"What the EPA is saying is that there's really no level of these chemicals that's safe for humans or wildlife," Hill remarked.

Separate from the proposed rule, Hill pointed out the EPA recently updated lifetime health advisories for several forever chemicals, including PFOA and PFOS.

"They put them in the .004 and .02 parts per trillion respectively," Hill reported. "That is not even one drop in an Olympic-size swimming pool."

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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