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EPA Cracks Down on Forever Chemicals

Last week in Wilmington, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced tighter limits on GenX and other PFAS, the so-called “forever chemicals” now recognized as a serious threat to human health in our drinking water. 

On June 15, the EPA Office of Water unveiled new, far more stringent health advisory goals concerning lifetime exposure to these chemicals. In other words, a lifetime of drinking a particular source of water should expose someone to “near zero” amounts of PFAS, and anything higher has adverse health impacts, including studies suggesting links to rare cancers, birth defects, high blood pressure, and more. While these new goals are not legally enforceable, they serve as a key scientific underpinning for forthcoming rules which will be enforced.

The EPA also announced the first $1 billion of $5 billlion from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law which will help underserved communities tackle the impacts of PFAS pollution.

In the wake of the EPA’s announcement, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said that under a consent order reached with Chemours last year, the EPA’s new goals will allow DEQ to require the GenX manufacturer to provide filters to thousands more North Carolinians impacted by their decades of poisoning the Cape Fear River from their plant near Fayetteville.

Chemours needs to go even further to pay for this toxic legacy which continues to ruin lives. After years of inaction, a bipartisan group of state legislators is finally stepping up with state House Bill 1095, the PFAS Pollution and Polluter Liability Act. But fervent opposition from Chemours, the Chamber of Commerce, and other polluting special interests is keeping the bill stuck in committee. Tell your representative to get the bill moving now!

“We applaud EPA’s leadership in setting the new health advisory level for GenX and proposing new advisories for PFOA and PFOS. No community should have to suffer from toxic PFAS pollution, especially when agencies have existing authority to identify and control sources of these dangerous chemicals,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney and leader of the Clean Water Program at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The EPA, DEQ, and state agencies nationwide must enforce existing law that requires use of technology to reduce or eliminate PFAS when issuing water permits.” 

“The science is clear: these chemicals are shockingly toxic at extremely low doses. EPA’s new health advisories for PFOA, PFOS, and GenX reflect this robust science and will send a welcome signal that government and industry must do more to protect public health,” said Erik D. Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

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