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Consumer Reports applauds EPA’s final rule limiting PFAS in drinking water

EPA’s rule will protect the public from widespread “forever chemical” contamination in the nation’s drinking water linked to serious health concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer Reports praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today for issuing a final rule limiting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. The EPA’s rule establishes the first enforceable limits for PFAS chemicals, which is a landmark step forward in protecting the public from these toxic chemicals. PFAS chemicals have been found to contaminate municipal water systems nationwide and are linked to severe health concerns.

“Toxic PFAS chemicals pollute drinking water throughout the country and pose an ever-present and serious threat to all of us,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “Americans should be able to drink clean, safe tap water at home without being exposed to hazardous chemicals that endanger their health.”

Ronholm continued, “The EPA’s new standards are a significant step that will help address widespread PFAS contamination in the drinking water we rely on every day. These standards will protect millions of Americans who are unwittingly exposed to dangerous forever chemicals in every glass of water they drink.”

PFAS are used in hundreds of products to make them resistant to heat, water, oil, and corrosion. These chemicals can seep into water from factories, landfills, and other sources. PFAS are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are resistant to breaking down naturally in the environment and can remain in people’s bodies for years.

The EPA’s final rule sets an enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), two of the most common PFAS. Several studies have identified the health risks posed by exposure to PFOA and PFOS, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy and to breastfed infants, cancer, liver damage, and immune system suppression. The rule also sets an enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 parts per trillion for PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA (also known as GenX chemicals). Additionally, the EPA’s rule limits mixtures of any two or more of four PFAS: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and “GenX chemicals.”

The EPA’s new rule requires municipal water systems to track and monitor the levels of the five  PFAS chemicals found in drinking water. Under the rule, local governments are required to notify the public about the PFAS levels detected in the water and take measures to reduce levels that exceed the maximum contaminant limits. The EPA is making available $1 billion in funding available to local governments to test and treat public water systems and to help owners of private wells address PFAS contamination. The funding is part of a $9 billion investment made possible through the bipartisan infrastructure law to help communities respond to PFAS.

A 2021 joint investigation by Consumer Reports and the Guardian US of tap water in the U.S. found that nearly every sample tested contained measurable levels of PFAS. Of the 120 water samples collected from households across the country, CR found that more than a third had PFAS levels above 10 ppt, and more than a quarter exceeded 5 ppt for a single PFAS chemical.