EPA plans to regulate cancer-causing chemicals found in US drinking water
18 February 2019
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans on February 14 to regulate chemicals linked to cancer in humans currently found in drinking water systems. The chemicals -polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - are present in firefighting foams, which have seeped into groundwater sources that supply an estimated 16 million Americans.
Andrew Wheeler, the Environmental Protection Agency's acting administrator, said at a news conference in Philadelphia the agency would set a maximum contaminant level for PFAS, which are also present in food packaging, cleaners, water-repellent fabrics, Teflon-coated cookware and cleaning products.
Wheeler said the agency will propose a regulatory determination by the end of the year, which is the next step legally required under the Safe Drinking Water Act to establish a "maximum contaminant level" for the chemicals. The agency is reviewing whether similar chemicals should be regulated, he said.
The EPA plans to list the harmful chemicals as contaminants under its Superfund program, which would give the agency more authority to pursue polluters.
The chemicals have been linked to reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects. Research has shown they can contribute to low infant birth weights, thyroid problems and some cancers.
Environmental advocates and congressional Democrats criticised the move as little more than a stalling tactic to protect industry interests, given the health risks already m mmmmnbnm,known about the chemicals.
Several states have already taken steps to limit or ban PFAS and highlighted their risks to the public. The chemical is banned from fire-fighting foam in Washington state, with PFAS also being prohibited from use in the region's fast-food restaurants.
PFAS are present in high concentrations near military bases across the country where fire-fighting foam was used for training, and at chemical plants where the substances were manufactured.
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