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Why the EPA Is Focusing on “Forever” Chemicals

In March 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first federal limits for six types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in public drinking water. PFAS are often called “forever” chemicals because they remain in the environment for a long time without breaking down.1



Studies have found that almost every U.S. resident has PFAS in their blood.2 And there are growing concerns that exposure to PFAS may cause cancer, increase cholesterol, impact fertility, interfere with the body’s natural hormones, and trigger developmental problems in children.3

Because of their stain-, water-, grease-, and fire-resistant qualities, PFAS were used for decades to make various kinds of goods, including carpet, clothing, nonstick cookware, food packaging, and fire-fighting foam, but they have since been removed from many consumer products.4

According to EPA estimates, the proposed rule would affect 3,400 to 6,300 contaminated public water systems — serving between 70 million and 94 million people. Required improvements could cost $772 million a year, with potential economic benefits of $1.2 billion a year from fewer cancers and other illnesses. Industry groups have warned that the compliance costs could be much higher.5

1–2, 4–5) The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2023
3) Environmental Protection Agency, 2023

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