The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new drinking water health advisory for man-made chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA, establishing a limit of 70 parts per trillion. The advisory also alerts consumers to the fact that exposure to elevated levels of these compounds can lead to a number of health problems over time. These chemicals were primarily used to manufacture non-stick cookware, stain resistant products, firefighting foam, waterproof clothing and other products. They do not break down naturally, and concentrations of these chemicals can build up in people over time.
“While we are grateful that the EPA issued these PFOA/PFOA health advisories, frankly this should have been done many years ago,” said Rhon Jones, Principal & Toxic Torts Section Head for Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. “The manufacturers of these chemicals have known for many years about the potential harm of the chemicals they created. My hope is that this new health advisory will allow regulators to protect human health and the environment.”
EPA data indicated 13 water systems nationwide with levels of PFOA above the new 70 parts per trillion threshold, and 46 showed elevated levels of PFOS. Eight Alabama drinking water systems were among those found to contain chemicals above safe levels. They are:
- West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority
- Gadsden Water Works & Sewer Board
- Centre Sewer Board
- V.A.W. (Vinemont Anon West Point) Water Systems, Inc.
- West Lawrence Water Co-op
- Northeast Alabama Water District (in Fort Payne)
- Southside Water Works and Sewer Board (in Gadsden)
- The Utilities Board of Rainbow City
The previous EPA advisory level also was based on short-term exposure. The new advisory warns of health risks connected to consuming drinking water containing the chemicals for a prolonged period, which the EPA says reflects emerging science that lower concentrations can still have long-term impacts.
The new health advisories are meant as guidelines for drinking water system operators. While EPA health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory, it is hoped that by establishing limits for these chemicals, they will allow water system operators to establish policies to protect human health and the environment. EPA health advisories provide technical information to state agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination.
Even before the new EPA advisory, the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority filed a federal lawsuit last year against 3M, alleging the manufacturing facility in Decatur, Ala., was a major producer of both PFOS and PFOA until 2002. The lawsuit alleges negligence, public nuisance and trespass.
For more information about the Drinking Water Health Advisory and other environmental health issues, contact Rhon Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.