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CR praises EPA for issuing strong PFAS health advisories to protect the public from dangerous “forever chemicals” in drinking water

EPA takes action as legislation advances in the Senate to ban PFAS in food packaging 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer Reports applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today for issuing strict new health advisories for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that underscore the serious danger these toxic chemicals pose to public health in drinking water.

“Toxic PFAS chemicals are everywhere, including in the drinking water we rely on every day,” said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior staff scientist at Consumer Reports. “We applaud the EPA for following the science and issuing these strict advisories needed to protect public health. This is a major victory for science and represents an important first step to ensure everyone has access to safe drinking water. Now it’s up to the EPA to adopt legally binding standards so that everyone can have confidence that their drinking water is safe.”

There are currently no enforceable limits set by the EPA for PFAS in drinking water. The EPA’s health advisories identify what it considers to be a “safe” level for contaminants like PFAS in drinking water based on the latest peer-reviewed science available.  The EPA had previously established health advisory levels for two PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS) at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Its latest advisory dramatically reduces the levels considered safe to .004 ppt for PFOA and .02 ppt for PFOS and establishes health advisory levels for two other PFAS compounds: 10 ppt for GENX and 2000 ppt for PFBS.

A joint investigation by Consumer Reports and the Guardian US news organization of the nation’s drinking water issued in 2021 found widespread contamination with PFAS, including a significant number of samples that exceeded levels considered safe by CR and other health experts. A number of 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 EPA’s new health advisories come just one day after efforts in Congress to ban PFAS from food packaging picked up momentum in the Senate.  On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee adopted an amendment to legislation governing FDA user fees that prohibits the use of PFAS in food wrappers and other food packaging.

“While some popular restaurant chains and grocery stores have begun phasing out PFAS in packaging, others are still wrapping food in packaging containing these toxic chemicals,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “We’re pleased that bipartisan legislation to protect the public from these dangerous chemicals in food packaging is gaining support in the Senate.  It’s time for Congress to get PFAS out of food packaging by passing this critical legislation.”

An investigation by Consumer Reports issued in March found dangerous PFAS chemicals in most of the food wrappers and packaging from chain restaurants and grocery stores that were tested. PFAS from grease-resistant food wrappers can seep into the food we eat and contaminate soil and water when packaging is tossed in the landfill.

PFAS are used in hundreds of products to make them resistant to heat, water, oil, and corrosion and are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they are resistant to breaking down naturally in the environment, and can remain in people’s bodies for years.

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537