The rule would cover six types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” and is one of the biggest steps taken toward improving drinking water in 30 years. PFAS are a group of industrial chemicals used since the 1950s in a variety of industrial and consumer products because of their ability to resist liquids. Think non-stick pans, rain jackets, and even pizza boxes. EPA has found that the two most-studied chemicals in the class, PFOA and PFOS, lead to cancer and some form of PFAS are found in nearly every American’s blood. The agency estimates the final rule would save tens of thousands of lives and significantly reduce the rate of serious disease.
Water utilities will have to invest heavily on ways to filter out the tiny chemicals from customers’ potable water, and a number of the impacted utilities are suing major PFAS manufacturer 3M, in an effort to get 3M to pay for the cost of the water remediation. Advocates like Robert Bilott, who won a lawsuit against DuPont for poisoning communities in West Virginia, celebrated the proposed rule, telling Grist that “it has taken far too long to get to this point, but the scientific facts and truth about the health threat posed by these … poisons have finally prevailed over the decades of corporate cover-ups and misinformation campaigns designed to mislead the public and delay action.”
“The science is clear that long-term exposure to PFAS is linked to significant health risks,” Radhika Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water, said in an interview.