EPA Announces First-Ever National Standard to Address PFAS in Drinking Water
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring every community has access to clean drinking water, free of chemicals and pollutants that harm the health and wellbeing of children, families, and communities. Today the Administration announced the first-ever national drinking water standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a major step to advance that commitment. This action builds on two years of progress on President Biden’s action plan to combat PFAS pollution, safeguarding public health and advancing environmental justice.
PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” are a set of human-made chemicals that can cause cancer and other severe health problems. Found in air, drinking water, and our food supply, PFAS pollution disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities and poses a serious threat across rural, suburban, and urban areas.
President Biden has secured historic resources to address emerging containments like PFAS. His Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $9 billion over five years to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS and other contamination reduce levels in drinking water. The investments are part of the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.
In line with President Biden’s commitment last week to the International Association of Firefighters, the President’s FY24 budget includes additional resources for firefighters exposed to PFAS, including increased funding for FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG). Specifically, the budget requests $370 million for AFG that can be used to support cancer screenings, fitness activities, and other wellness initiatives.
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to utilizing science and holding polluters accountable to address and prevent PFAS contamination. Today the Administration also released two new reports outlining the latest science and progress on a government-wide plan to address and prevent PFAS contamination.
First-Ever National Standard to Combat PFAS in Drinking Water
Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever national standard to address PFAS contamination in drinking water. EPA will require public water systems to monitor for six PFAS chemicals, notify the public if the levels of these PFAS exceed the proposed regulatory standards, and take action to reduce the level of PFAS in the water supply. EPA anticipates that if fully implemented, the rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses.
This proposal is part of EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, a comprehensive strategy that outlines concrete actions through 2024, including steps to control PFAS at its sources, hold polluters accountable, ensure science-based decision making, and address the impacts of contamination on disadvantaged communities.
New Report on PFAS Science to Advance Federal PFAS Research Activities
Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a state of science report on PFAS. The report summarizes current PFAS research in key strategic areas, including safe removal and destruction of PFAS and alternatives to PFAS that are safer, as well as gaps in PFAS data and knowledge. It also describes the state of federal PFAS research and development (R&D), and underscores the importance of communities, the private sector and governments at all levels working together to expand our nation’s understanding of PFAS and alternatives. Over the next year, OSTP will work with federal agencies to leverage this report as a roadmap for establishing goals and priorities for federal PFAS R&D, harness existing federal PFAS research activities, and accelerate transformative advancements in the destruction and disposal of PFAS, the development of PFAS alternatives, and in our understanding of the harmful effects of PFAS as a chemical class on human health and our environment.
Building on Two Years of Combatting PFAS Contamination
Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, nearly two dozen Federal agencies and offices have made systematic and substantive progress to safeguard human health and protect the environment from PFAS over the first two years of the Biden-Harris Administration. This includes efforts to address the disproportionate health impacts on disadvantaged communities, including those that are low income, rural, or located near polluting facilities. Today the Council on Environmental Quality, which leads the Interagency Policy Committee on PFAS, released a new report on the Administration’s actions on PFAS and next steps.
- Measuring and Monitoring PFAS: The Centers for Disease Control Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC ATSDR) completed the first multi-community blood PFAS assessment in over 2000 residents across 10 communities. The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are measuring blood PFAS in firefighters. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested for PFAS in over 500 food samples and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitored more than 20 PFAS in marine mammals, fish, and shellfish along U.S. coasts and the Great Lakes.
- Accelerating PFAS Cleanup: Cleaning up PFAS from the environment is a massive task that will require our continuous and dedicated investment in the coming years. DoD continued site investigations at more than 700 installations, and initiated remedial investigations at over 250 sites addressing PFAS in drinking water at 53 military and National Guard facilities. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) restricted the use of PFAS-containing foams and installed cleanup procedures.
- Strengthening Policy and Limiting PFAS Procurement: The National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) worked on PFAS measurement in farm animals, corn silage, fish, spinach, eggs, and milk. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided policy guidance to airports to reduce the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams. DoD issued new specifications for fluorine-free foam for land-based firefighting applications and began reducing procurement of PFAS-containing items.
- Expanding Programs and Resources to Meet PFAS Challenges: EPA began distributing $10 billion in funding to address emerging contaminants such as PFAS under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. DoD provided CDC ATSDR with $30 million over the last two years to study exposures and health risks from PFAS in drinking water in communities near former and current military bases.
- Closing Critical Research Gaps in PFAS Detection, Disposal, Health Effects and PFAS-alternatives: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) funded over 70 projects to investigate human and environmental PFAS exposures and impacts, novel detection and remediation technologies, and occupational health trainings. The VA launched the Military Exposures Research Program to better understand the health impact of chemical exposures including PFAS. The FDA completed studies to understand the potential health effects of certain PFAS in women and children, and developed methods to detect PFAS at low parts per trillion concentrations in human food and animal feed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) led research on PFAS in ground water, wastewater, and livestock, and on farming practices to reduce risks of PFAS in food crops. The Department of Energy (DOE) focused research on using molecular probes for rapid detection, separation, and quantification of PFAS in water. DoD, DOE and EPA continued concerted work on safe and effective PFAS destruction technologies.
- Bolstering Community Engagement and Information Sharing: EPA, DOE, and DoD continue to share PFAS information and action updates via dedicated PFAS websites. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) crafted communication plans and PFAS guidance, and is expanding stakeholder engagement with a focus on mutual aid and interagency collaboration at facilities co-located with other agencies. CDC ATSDR provided webinars to clinicians with guidance for addressing PFAS in patient care, and published a user-friendly blood PFAS estimator tool for general use.