On June 15, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new health advisory levels for four PFAS chemicals that are found in thousands of water systems throughout the United States. These advisories set the maximum amount of the chemicals that the EPA believes represents safe drinking water for all people, representing critically needed benchmarks in the effort to prevent over-exposure.
The health advisory levels cover perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluouoctanic acid (PFOA) perfluorobutance sulfonic acid (PFBS), and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (GenX). For PFOS and PFOA, the EPA lowered the health advisory levels from 70 parts per trillion (ppt) to .02 ppt for PFOS and .004 ppt for PFOA. For PFBS and GenX, the EPA’s health advisory levels were new—standing at 2,000 ppt for PFBS and 10 ppt for GenX.
As discussed in this blog, the PFAS chemicals covered by the health advisory levels are used in a wide variety of products and are present in the manufacturing processes that produce them. That’s been the case since the 1940s, and as a result of poor process and waste management for most of that time they’re present in the air and water almost everywhere. Around manufacturing facilities that use them, they often exist in concentrations that can cause adverse health impacts—including in more than 1,500 drinking water systems across the US.
The new health advisory levels put a significantly higher burden on regulators and companies that manufacture products that contain these PFAS chemicals. As Paul Napoli of Napoli Shkolnik put it: “This is a tremendous step forward for millions of Americans at risk of developing cancer and other deadly diseases from simply drinking tap water at home they trust the government to protect.”
PFAS are unique in that they break down very slowly, and time is the enemy of evidence. Therefore, some individuals who experience health impacts from PFAS can find it challenging to prove the connection between PFAS and their ailments. If you feel you may have been sickened by PFAS, you should consult with an attorney to assess your circumstances and determine a course of legal action.