Advance Notice: Briefs

EPA: Two types of PFAS far more toxic than previously understood

By: - November 18, 2021 2:20 pm

Susan J. Demas

The EPA released data Tuesday that suggests two types of PFAS are more toxic than previously understood, which could trigger a drastic reduction in what the agency considers acceptable amounts in drinking water.

The data showed that PFOA and PFOS were found to cause health problems at much lower reference doses by thousands of times. The reference dose is the maximum amount of a toxic chemical that can be ingested, but that doesn’t result in an excess risk of cancer or other health disorders.

The EPA has forwarded the data to its Science Advisory Board for review. If the SAB agrees with the findings, the federal and North Carolina health advisory goal for PFOA would be nearly 14,000 times more stringent. Instead of 70 ppt, the goal would be reduced to .005 ppt, a minute amount. The EPA has said data shows that PFOA is likely carcinogenic, meaning it’s been linked to cancer.

For PFOS, the health advisory goal would be 3,000 times stricter, at a level of .02 ppt.

A health advisory goal is not legally enforceable, but it is among the steps toward a national drinking water standard, which is law.

There are thousands of types of PFAS, also known as perfluorinated and polyfluoroalkyl compounds. They are used in myriad products, including Teflon cookware, floor waxes, water- and stain-resistant upholstery and clothing, food packaging, and firefighting foams.  

Exposure to some of these compounds, including GenX, has been already been linked to several types of cancer, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure during pregnancy, low birth weight, and thyroid disorders.  

A version of this story first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, NC Policy Watch. Read the story here.

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Lisa Sorg joined N.C. Policy Watch in July 2016. She covers environmental issues, including social justice, pollution, climate change and energy policy. Before joining the project, Lisa was the editor and an investigative reporter for INDY Week, covering the environment, housing and city government. She has been a journalist for 22 years, working at magazines, daily newspapers, digital media outlets and alternative newsweeklies.