Washington — The U.S. government released a long-awaited study June 20 on the safety of fluorinated chemicals that recommends much stricter safe exposure levels for the public.
The study, from a unit of the Centers for Disease Control, recommends safety standards for the non-stick chemicals that are up to 10 times lower than previously recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to environmental groups who have analyzed the detailed 852-page report.
One of the chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, had been used in the manufacturing of fluoropolymers, and the class of chemicals has been used in firefighting foams and in the lining of food packaging, among other applications. Various studies have found it widely in drinking water systems.
The chemicals were the subject of an Environmental Protection Agency forum in Washington in late May that drew headlines for excluding some reporters and members of the public.
At that forum, a speaker from the American Chemistry Council urged using the best available science to determine safety standards and urged restrictions on imports of legacy versions of the chemicals in a broad class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
The Washington-based Environmental Working Group noted that states like New Jersey and Michigan have been moving to set much tougher PFAS standards than the current EPA safe levels, and predicted that absent federal leadership, it "will largely fall to state and local governments to step in."
"This study confirms that the EPA's guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health," said Olga Naidenko, senior science adviser at EWG.