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EPA Misses Mark with New PFAS Drinking Water Limits

April 4, 2023

New EPA drinking water limits issued March 14 are raising concerns at NMPF that they may be arbitrarily restrictive and not based on the best science available.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new limits, known as Maximum Contaminant Limits (MCLs), cover six PFAS chemicals, which environmental advocates say increase health risks. EPA set the limit for PFOA and PFOS, the focus of much of EPA’s attention on the issue, at 4 parts-per-trillion (PPT) individually. It’s using health hazard index to set limits for 4 other PFAS chemicals.

The limits are below international standards, including those set by the World Health Organization. As well as all state-imposed limits for PFAS ( per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in drinking water. Unlike the previous EPA Health Hazard Advisory, which originally set the advisable limit at 70ppt, these new proposed limits are enforceable regulations. The proposed limits will not apply to private well water.

The new limits, if finalized, will require thousands of drinking water utilities to spend significant amount of money to upgrade their water filtration systems to remove all detectable PFAS. Water in many areas of the country is already very expensive, and it will get even more expensive with this regulation. In addition to raising drinking water costs, the change also will increase food costs, as the food processing industry uses significant amounts of water to make food and to clean and sanitize food facilities.

NMPF also is concerned that the low limits on drinking water will impact potential limits in food, either in a regulation or in public perception. Thus far, FDA has declined to set a food limit and generally does not feel that trace levels of PFAS in human food are a human health concern, with rare exceptions.

While everyone should have an ample supply of clean water, the fact is many drinking water systems are contaminated with a variety of chemicals and it is economically impossible to get public drinking water to be 100% contaminant free. NMPF has cautioned EPA to be careful and follow the science on the regulation of all things PFAS for years.

The comment period is open until April 24. NMPF will once again file comments to EPA advising it to follow the science and be consistent with the global approach to regulating PFAS chemicals.