The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Cindy Carr,

EPA Releases New PFAS “Forever Chemical” Drinking Water Standards

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its first-ever legal standard for two PFAS “forever chemicals” -- PFOS and PFOA -- proposing a limit of no more than 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for each chemical in drinking water. EPA is also setting a combined standard for the total hazard posed by four other PFAS chemicals -- PFHxS, PFBS, PFNA, and HFPO-DA or GenX -- in drinking water. More than 200 million people in the United States are estimated to currently have unhealthy levels of PFAS in their water. EPA estimates the new standard, when enacted in 2024, will save billions of dollars in healthcare costs per year and prevent death and serious diseases like cancer, heart attacks, and strokes.

The announcement is a rare move for EPA which has not updated any drinking water standards for dangerous chemicals for more than two decades. In the short term, the costs of testing and removing PFAS from water will largely be covered by Federal funding, , including $5 billion for PFAS and other emerging contaminants in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The announcement is a clear acknowledgment that PFAS chemicals are more potent than previously believed. Last summer, EPA dramatically lowered its lifetime health advisory levels for PFOS and PFOA from 70 parts per trillion combined to 20 and 4 parts per quadrillion, respectively. When finalized, the new drinking water standard for PFOS and PFOA will be the lowest limit for any chemical the EPA regulates in water. While the proposed limits are a notable improvement from no limit, they are still more than 250 to 1,000 times higher than the amount EPA says is “safe” or ideal in water.

In response, Sierra Club Senior Toxics Policy Advisor Sonya Lunder issued the following statement:

“EPA’s strong new limits for these six PFAS chemicals will prevent serious illnesses and save lives. EPA must keep its momentum by issuing rules to limit the production and use of PFAS chemicals and control their cleanup and disposal. In the long term, polluting industries, not the public, must pay the full cost of removing these ‘forever chemicals’ from the environment.”

Mark Favors, military veteran, registered nurse, and Sierra Club member issued the following statement:

“Unfortunately, today’s protections arrived too late for my family members who drank water contaminated by the use of PFAS at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs for decades. Sixteen people in my extended family have had cancer, including five military veterans. But the new rules will have far-reaching implications for future generations, particularly people living near military bases. The Department of Defense (DoD) has a long history of failing to honor safer drinking water standards in many states, forcing military service members and the public to drink unhealthy water and water utilities to pay out of pocket for expensive treatment. By swiftly implementing and enforcing the proposed PFAS standards, the EPA can mandate DoD follow these standards and ultimately prevent future illness, even death, for many Americans.”

Liz Rosenbaum of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition in El Paso County, Colorado issued the following statement:

“EPA-required testing led to the discovery of PFAS contamination in my county in 2016. While I relocated my family out of Fountain, Colorado to avoid drinking more PFAS, I didn’t move far enough. Testing kits provided by the Sierra Club demonstrated that water in the community I moved to was also contaminated, with water levels even exceeding EPA’s new limits. The PFAS problem is much worse than we’ve been told, especially for people living in rural areas near military sites.”

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