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Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy and Perspectives
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced a dramatic decrease in what they’re considering a “safe” level of certain PFAS in drinking water. EPA’s recent announcement reiterates just how serious the PFAS crisis has become in the U.S. What do these new “safe levels” mean for you and what action do you need to take?
EPA's New Guidelines for PFAS
EPA is proposing to reduce the current Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS combined, to 0.004 parts per trillion for PFOA and 0.02 parts per trillion for PFOS. This reduction is over 17,000 times lower than what was considered safe by EPA just 6 years ago. EPA also introduced Health Advisory Levels of 10 parts per trillion for GenX and 2,000 parts per trillion for PFBS. It’s important to note that a Health Advisory Level is the amount of a contaminant that is NOT likely to cause negative health impacts. For example, drinking water with PFBS at a concentration above 2,000 parts per trillion could cause adverse health effects, according to EPA.
EPA admits that these super low levels could be very difficult to identify with current methods of detection: “It is possible for PFOA or PFOS to be present in drinking water at levels that exceed health advisories even if testing indicates no level of these chemicals” and that PFOA and PFOS can only “be reliably measured using specified analytical methods in appropriate laboratory settings.” While the intention of these new Health Advisory Levels are in good faith, they’re setting up municipal treatment plants to fail - especially those in rural and underfunded communities.
How Will The New PFAS Guidelines Impact You?
The general public likely won’t feel any real impacts for several years. Interim levels, and health advisory levels in general, are entirely non-enforceable. This means that water providers are not legally bound to meet these lower recommendations anytime soon. The goal of health advisories is that they will eventually turn into enforceable standards, which EPA has plans to implement in 2023. The only real impact to public health is that PFAS levels that were once considered “safe” by EPA are now potentially dangerous.
Takeaways and Red Flags
First, these new health advisory levels are unattainable by nearly every single public water utility in the country. Not only will someone (taxpayers) have to pay for new treatment technology, but it could take years if not decades to get new treatment up and running. It’s unclear what will happen to utility providers if they violate this law, or what people are supposed to do while these new guidelines take effect. Second, these new guidelines don’t address the root of the problem. PFAS are still being produced in the U.S., and are still a key ingredient in several consumer products. Even though drinking water has the potential to be addressed, there are hundreds of other ways that people are exposed to PFAS chemicals. Finally, this new change only addresses four of the over 9,000 different PFAS variations that are being found in the environment.Others Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Hydroviv's Scientific Founder
Much like changing a car’s oil is necessary for a car to operate, replacing the cartridge in your Hydroviv water filter is necessary to ensure that your filter is producing safe drinking water for you and your family. This article discusses the most frequently asked questions that we get about cartridge replacement.
Why Do I Have To Change My Water Filter Cartridge?
The performance of a water filter cartridge against dissolved and particulate contaminants is dictated by two main factors: #1. pore structure and #2. active media blend. A water filter must be changed regularly because as water flows through the filter over time, the pore structure can become clogged with particulate matter and active media becomes saturated with chemicals. When the capacity of either is exceeded, the filter no longer performs as designed.
How Do I Know When It’s Time To Change My Water Filter Cartridge?
While it’s easy to tell if particulate matter has filled up the filter’s pores (flow rate slows down), it’s not as straightforward to tell if a filter has been saturated by dissolved chemicals without laboratory testing. This is where 3rd party testing & certifications come in. For example, as part of Hydroviv’s NSF Certification Program, our drinking water cartridges were shown to filter chemicals like PFAS, lead, and VOCs for over 720 gallons before performance tapered, which translates to a 6 month replacement interval for over 95% of Hydroviv customers.
What Happens When You Don’t Change Your Filters’ Cartridge?
When a filter is used beyond the capacity, filtration performance drops and can reach a point where the filter can release contaminants into the water, a process known as “avalanching.” This is why we tell people that if they decide not to replace the cartridge, they are better off disconnecting their filtration system.
Are There Other Factors That Create Exceptions to The 6 Month Rule?
While over 95% of Hydroviv users are best served by a 6 month replacement interval, we do have users that use a longer or shorter changeout interval. For example, a filter used by a large family that drinks a lot of water or has a high amount of particulate matter could require more frequent cartridge replacements. Conversely, an occasionally-used filter can probably be changed out less frequently, though we don’t ever recommend letting any filter be used for over 9 months for hygiene reasons.
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