Despite a wide range of criticism from environmentalists and public health advocates, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to refuse to set limits for two toxic chemicals that are contaminating millions of Americans’ tap water.
The two chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), currently contaminate millions of Americans’ drinking water in limits that exceed the government’s non-enforceable health advisory limit. PFOS and PFOA are chemicals that have been used in Teflon-coated cookware and military firefighting foam and are linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and weekend childhood immunity.
The decision comes less than a year after the White House and EPA delayed publication of a health study on the chemicals.
According to Politico, “EPA’s decision means the chemicals will remain unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to sources familiar with a still-unreleased draft plan that acting administrator Andrew Wheeler signed off on in late December. That means utilities will face no federal requirements for testing for and removing the chemicals from drinking water supplies, although several states have pursued or are pursuing their own limits.”
Both Democrats and Republicans have pressed the EPA to do more to keep chemicals out of drinking water. However, the Trump administration seems to be doing everything it can to do the opposite. If the EPA was to enact stricter, enforceable, policies on chemicals in drinking water it could mean that major chemical companies, as well as the Defense Department, would “face billions of dollars in liability from aggressive efforts to regulate and clean up the chemical, which has contaminated groundwater near hundreds of military bases and chemical plants.”
Last week both parties in the House of Representatibes agreed to form a PFAS Task Force to address water contamination by both chemicals. “While the Trump Administration has claimed it wants to address PFAS, they have been all talk and no action. Even the Trump administration’s own studies have identified how dangerous PFAS chemicals are, yet they refuse to act,” said Rep Dan Kildee (D-MI.), one of the co-chairs of the task force.
“Sadly, it’s no surprise the Trump administration is failing to protect Americans from these dangerous chemicals,” Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement. “This administration prioritizes corporate profits over public safety, pure and simple.”
Currently, the EPA has no legal limits for PFOA and PFOS, only a non-enforceable health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for either chemical or the two combined.
“If these sources are right, the EPA is essentially telling the more than 110 million Americans whose water is likely contaminated with PFAS: ‘Drink up, folks,'” says Environmental Working Group senior scientist David Andrews. “The most efficient and equitable way to remove these chemicals from the nation’s drinking water supply is to use the agency’s authority to set legal limits… It’s a national problem, and it needs a national solution.”