Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
United States Environmental Protection Agency- PFAS Health Advisory
Release Date: June 15, 2022
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS) are a growing family of chemicals, developed for useful purposes to resist heat and sticking. They are commonly used in certain coatings on cookware, food packaging, clothing, and cosmetics. They are important components used in firefighting foams. Although there are two compounds that are most prevalent, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), the family includes thousands of compounds. Because they were developed to resist heat, they do not biodegrade and persist in the environment for a long time. The half-life of some of these compounds is approximately 5 years in the human body.
On June 15, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released drinking water health advisories for four PFAS. Health advisories provide states and water utilities with a reference point as they evaluate potential contamination and appropriate responses to assure the safety of drinking water. The PFOA and PFOS advisory levels are extremely low and do not reflect the draft recommendations of EPA’s own expert Science Advisory Board review. The health advisory levels at parts per quadrillion, are undetectable by current laboratory methods. To put one part per quadrillion into perspective, Lake Sidney Lanier is approximately 38,000 acres and stores approximately 637 billion gallons of water. Only 2 teaspoons of PFAS would contaminate all of Lake Sidney Lanier such that it would exceed EPA’s new health advisory for PFAS of 4 parts per quadrillion.
CCMWA is committed to both the protection of public health and decision-making based on the best available science. Rigorous testing of the drinking water from both water treatment plants indicate that the potable water is in full compliance with all drinking water regulatory standards. As water professionals, we at CCMWA share EPA’s desire to keep harmful levels of PFAS out of the nation’s drinking water. CCMWA supports setting national drinking water standards for PFAS that protect all consumers, including the most sensitive populations. CCMWA also stands for strong source water protection to prevent PFAS contamination and increased investment in PFAS research.
At the national level, EPA is already in the process of setting maximum contaminant levels for PFAS within the scientifically rigorous framework of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). A proposal is expected in the fall. Through the SDWA regulatory process, many utilities are sampling for PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS to better understand where they occur and at what levels. They are sharing that information with their communities. It’s important that EPA complete this rulemaking process so that states, utilities, and consumers have a clear and consistent path forward for managing harmful levels of PFAS in drinking water.
CCMWA is working diligently to keep our drinking water safe. At the low levels set in the health advisories, protecting source water from PFAS contamination is critical. CCMWA urges Congress and other decision-makers to implement policies that keep harmful PFAS out of our communities, especially the nation’s drinking water supply.
For additional information about Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS, please visit the EPA website.