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EPA targets ‘forever chemicals’ in historic water rule 

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The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a first-ever national drinking water standard for six ‘forever chemicals’ as their latest action to combat polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). However, the proposed standard does not require any actions until at least the end of the year, the EPA anticipates. 

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals used in products to resist heat such as firefighter foam, nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing and most commonly the colorful plastic-like material around wires. Hundreds of everyday products are made with PFAS that build up in our bodies with nowhere to go. PFAS are of concern because they do not break down in the environment, can move through soils and contaminate drinking water sources and build in fish and wildlife. And they stay there forever.

Scientists are still learning about the health effects of PFAS, but some studies have reported that they may lead to changes in liver enzymes, increased cholesterol levels, decreased vaccine response in children and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Lack of knowledge, coupled with the fact that people of color are more likely to live within five miles of a PFA contaminated site, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, leads to serious health risks and environmental justice concerns. The EPA expects that if fully implemented, the proposal would prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of “serious PFAS-attributed” illnesses. 

The proposal builds on other key milestones to combat PFAs including EPA’s proposal to designate two PFAS as hazardous substances, enhancing data on them through nationwide sampling for 29 other “forever chemicals.” 

The proposed rule would also require public water systems to monitor for the six designated chemicals, notify the public of the levels found and then reduce them if they exceed the proposed standard. 

The EPA will be holding an informational webinar about the proposed standard on March 29 at 2 p.m.

The EPA is also requesting public comment at regulations.gov, for members of the public to provide comments on the proposed rule.

Contact environmental reporter Jayden Kennett 317-762-7847 or by email JaydenK@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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