Washington — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency May 19 released new advisories lowering the amount of the fluoropolymer chemical PFOA that can be in drinking water.
But the new standards, however, may not provide much clarity for an issue that has seen several state governments target the fluoropolymer processing industry over levels of perfluorooctanoic acid in water systems, and has caused residents in Vermont to sue fluoropolymer processor Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. over alleged water contamination.
The Washington-based Environmental Working Group criticized the EPA decision by saying it is not legally enforceable, merely advisory, and it said some research shows that safe levels should be 70 times less than what EPA has ruled.
“The new, lower health advisory levels for PFOA and [perfluorooctanesulfonic acid] in drinking water remain much higher than what the newest independent studies indicate would protect human health with an adequate margin of safety,” EWG said in a statement.
But EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator Joel Beauvais said in a statement the “these levels reflect a margin of protection, including for the most sensitive populations.”
EPA said that while 99 percent of the U.S. population has PFOA in its blood, levels have been decreasing since the government and the chemical industry agreed about 10 years ago to phase out the use of the chemical, which EPA officials say has been linked to several cancers and thyroid problems.
The new advisory is intended to guide municipal water systems, and replaces an earlier 2009 EPA advisory on PFOA in drinking water.
EWG urged EPA to speed up issuing formal legal standards and said it estimates that 6.5 million U.S. residents in 27 states have PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water at unsafe levels.