BREAKING: EPA Proposes Regulatory Determination For PFOA and PFOS


Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Analyst

The Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday a proposed regulatory determination for two PFAS variations; PFOA and PFOS. This decision comes after months of pressure from Congress, and communities that have been negatively impacted by PFAS contamination. 

Proposed PFAS Regulatory Determination

According to yesterday's press release, EPA will propose two separate standards for PFOA and two for PFOS. One of the standards will be purely based on health impacts, and the other will take into account the financial burden of removing it from drinking water. The latter may seem counter intuitive in terms of regulating a contaminant in drinking water, but EPA must consider costs for any regulation, even when public health is compromised. EPA now has two full years to determine the Maximum Contaminant Levels or MCLs for each. An MCL is the acceptable level of a contaminant allowed in drinking water after being treated. EPA set a non-enforceable Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS, in December 2019. This concentration is significantly higher than what most states are proposing for drinking water standards. For example, Michigan Environmental Council is proposing 8 parts per trillion for PFOA and 16 parts per trillion for PFOS. 

Our Take:

One of the major takeaways of this proposed regulatory determination is that EPA has finally acknowledged that PFAS contamination is a serious threat to public health. While we’re glad to see that initial steps are being taken, there’s a long road ahead. An EPA representative from the Office of Water estimated that the final regulation would take four years to implement, which is generous at best. Regulations can take decades before being enforced in communities. The regulation for Perchlorate was introduced in 1998, but it's still is not regulated today. Also let’s not forget that Chromium 6 still isn’t regulated even after the blockbuster movie, Erin Brockovich, made it a household name. Public health organizations have advised EPA to act with urgency, but the regulatory process takes a very long time. If and when PFOA and PFOS become regulated, utilities will need to purchase expensive treatment equipment to reduce concentrations down to the regulated levels. This regulatory determination only applies to two chemicals but the FDA believes that there are as many as 5,000 different variations of PFAS. 

We’re glad that this proposed regulatory determination has brought more national attention to PFAS. It's important that citizens understand how broad of a problem PFAS are throughout the entire country. That being said, a regulation is several years away and it's still the responsibility of consumers to protect themselves from PFAS contamination. 

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