Victory! EPA Says ‘Forever Chemicals’ Must Be Removed From Tap Water

For the first time, the federal government announced today a requirement for municipal water systems to remove six synthetic chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems that are present in the tap water of hundreds of millions of people across the U.S.

Often called “forever chemicals,” PFAS have raised significant concern in the U.S. and globally because of their persistence and potential to bioaccumulate, along with their widespread presence in living organisms, products, and the environment, and demonstrated adverse health effects at low doses. The new standards cover six PFAS chemicals: PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS, PFNA and PFHxS, some of the most studied PFAS.

“The new standards are historic and fulfill President Biden’s Environmental Justice promise to PFAS-contaminated communities to set PFAS drinking water standards,” said Tom Fox, Senior Legislative Counsel for CEH. “This is the first time since the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Amendments that EPA has set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for new contaminants, which is long overdue. We celebrate this win and call on U.S. E.P.A. to take action further action to regulate PFAS as a class.”

For years, CEH has been part of a coalition of nonprofit, community, and environmental justice groups supporting North Carolina communities fighting for information on the PFAS polluting their drinking water. The coalition filed a lawsuit after the U.S. EPA denied their petition under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Watch ‘Cape Fear Courage’ which tells the story of North Carolina communities fighting for clean water. 

“We learned about GenX and other PFAS in our tap water six years ago. I raised my children on this water and watched loved ones suffer from rare or recurrent cancers. No one should ever worry if their tap water will make them sick or give them cancer. I’m grateful the Biden EPA heard our pleas and kept its promise to the American people. We will keep fighting until all exposures to PFAS end and the chemical companies responsible for business-related human rights abuses are held fully accountable,” said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear.

In California, new data show that PFAS have been found in water systems serving up to 25.4 million Californians (up from an estimated 16 million in the original analysis). Importantly, PFAS pollution continues to be more prevalent in state-identified disadvantaged communities, with up to 8.9 million Californians in these communities potentially impacted.

Learn more about EPA’s new standard.