The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the first nationwide standards for six “forever chemicals” in drinking water. These polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been linked to various cancers, immune diseases, low birth weight, and developmental disabilities in children.
The new rules would require public water utilities to test for the existence of these chemicals and ensure they’re kept at minimal levels.
Forever chemicals have been detected in the water supplies of Sacramento, Monterey, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Clarita, East Los Angeles and Oceanside.
“The science is clear that long-term exposure to PFAS is linked to significant health risks,” Radhika Fox, an assistant EPA administrator, told The Associated Press. They don’t break down in the environment so, even though they’ve been mostly phased out of use, traces remain.
The new standards were cheered by health professionals and environmental activists. But if they’re finalized, they’ll incur some big costs for water agencies — and ultimately consumers.
“Advanced drinking water treatment systems for PFAS will require communities to make significant investments,” the American Water Works Association (AWWA) said in a statement.
The EPA notes that $2 billion was allocated to address PFAS through the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Water utilities say more help will be needed.