• Introduction:

    What are PFAS?

    PFAS are a category of chemicals that can cause serious health problems if you are exposed to them over a long period of time, or at certain critical life stages like pregnancy and early childhood. Some of the most harmful PFAS have been largely phased out due to health and environmental concerns. But there are thousands of PFAS, and they are still found in use. PFAS tend to break down extremely slowly in the environment and can build up in people, animals, and the environment over time.

PFAS

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a category of chemicals that can cause serious health problems if you are exposed to them over a long period of time, or at certain critical life stages like pregnancy and early childhood. Some of the most harmful PFAS have been largely phased out due to health and environmental concerns. But there are thousands of PFAS, and they are still found in use. PFAS tend to break down extremely slowly in the environment and can build up in people, animals, and the environment over time.

PFS

National PFAS Drinking Water Standards

The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced on April 10, 2024, the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect communities from exposure to harmful per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as ‘forever chemicals’. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to deadly cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children. This final rule represents the most significant step to protect public health under EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The final rule will reduce PFAS exposure for approximately 100 million people, prevent thousands of deaths, and reduce tens of thousands of serious illnesses.

What is the new rule?

With this rule, EPA is establishing legally enforceable levels for six PFAS known to occur individually and/or as mixtures in drinking water. EPA will regulate five PFAS as individually. They are PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA. EPA will regulate four PFAS as a mixture: PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA, and PFBS. PFAS can often be found together and in varying combinations as mixtures. Decades of research show mixtures of different chemicals can have additive health effects, even if the individual chemicals are each present at lower levels. With this rule, EPA has set limits for these chemicals individually and/or as mixtures.

Why is EPA taking this step now?

We rely on safe drinking water from the moment we wake up and make a cup of coffee to when we brush our teeth at night. Every person should have access to safe drinking water. That’s why EPA is acting now to protect people’s drinking water from certain PFAS. The science is clear: exposure to these six PFAS is linked to significant health risks. EPA is following the process outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act for regulating drinking water contaminants. Regulating PFAS in drinking water is a significant way EPA protects the health of hundreds of millions of people and is a cornerstone of EPA’s approach to protect people and the environment from PFAS.

What does this mean for public drinking water systems?

Public water systems will have three years to complete the initial monitoring requirements. They must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water and they must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water to levels below the standards within five years. Each public water system may use currently available methods for PFAS reduction based upon their individual circumstances.

Public Health’s Role

Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County does not regulate or test public water systems. The levels and testing announced by the Environmental Protection Agency were done under their authority. Each individual municipal water supplier is responsible for the maintenance of their systems and is regulated by the EPA.

Lower Your Exposure to PFAS

Can I drink my water?

EPA estimates that between about 6% and 10% of the 66,000 public drinking water systems subject to this rule may have to take action to reduce PFAS to meet these new standards. That’s why EPA recommends contacting your local water utility to find out more about your drinking water, including what contaminants may be present, if they are monitoring for PFAS, what the levels are, and to see whether any actions are being taken.

The standards in this rule are set to reduce PFAS to the lowest levels that are feasible for effective implementation. If you are concerned about the level of PFAS in your drinking water, consider installing in-home water treatment (e.g., filters) that are certified to lower the levels of PFAS in your water. For more information: https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2024-04/water-filter-fact-sheet.pdf.

If You Get Your Water from a Home Drinking Water Well

EPA does not regulate or provide recommended standards for private wells. However, EPA does provide valuable information on well testing and guidance on technologies that may be used to treat or remove contaminants. For example:

  • Conduct regular well testing - for information on the overall quality of the water and whether it contains PFAS.
  • Contact your state environmental or health agency - for detailed advice or to obtain a list of state-certified laboratories using EPA-developed testing methods in drinking water. The National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Management System website may also be helpful in finding a laboratory to test for PFAS.
  • Compare your results to your state standards for safe levels PFAS in drinking water. If your state does not have standards, compare your levels to EPA’s Health Advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS.
  • If you remain concerned about the level of PFAS in your drinking water:
    • Contact your state environmental protection agency or health department and your local water utility to find out what actions they recommend.
    • If possible, consider using an alternate water source for drinking, preparing food, cooking, brushing teeth, preparing baby formula, and any other activity when your family might swallow water.
    • Consider installing an in-home water treatment (e.g., filters) that are certified to lower the levels of PFAS in your water. Learn about certified in-home water treatment filters.
  • Find resources about private wells.

Mothers and Breastfeeding

PFAS can migrate from a mother’s blood into her breast milk which may then expose breast-fed infants to PFAS. However, based on current science, the benefits of breastfeeding appear in most cases to outweigh the risks of exposure to PFAS for infants and provide many proven health benefits for infants, including protecting them from illness.

In weighing the risks and benefits of breastfeeding, mothers should contact their doctor. Read additional information about talking to your doctor about breastfeeding and PFAS.