Back in 2016, the Obama administration enacted an unenforceable recommendation that limited the amount of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), otherwise known as “forever chemicals” for their inability to degrade in nature, to 70 parts per trillion or less in any given product. Unfortunately, these forever chemicals are found in a multitude of everyday products, such as cosmetics, dental floss, cookware, and cleaning supplies, and have been connected to many human diseases such as thyroid conditions and even cancer.
Five years later, the current administration has finally announced that they will put Obama’s recommendation into action. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Michael Regan told The Washington Post that the Biden administration’s three-year strategy “really lays out a series of concrete and ambitious actions to protect people.”
The plan towards regulating the forever chemicals focuses on three approaches: “increase investments in research, leverage authorities to take action now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment, and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination,” the EPA declared.
To achieve this, the administration plans to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act, designate PFAS as a hazardous substance under CERCLA (which means holding manufacturers financially liable for incinerating the chemical or releasing it into waterways), set timelines for establishing effluent guideline limitations under the Clean Water Act, review rules and guidance under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and expand monitoring, data collection, and research of the forever chemicals.
“Communities contaminated by these toxic forever chemicals have waited decades for action,” said Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group. “So it’s good news that Administrator Regan will fulfill President Biden’s pledge to take quick action to reduce PFOA and PFOS in tap water, to restrict industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water, and to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances to hold polluters accountable.”
He adds that it’s been over two decades since we first realized that these toxic chemicals were present in our blood and increasing our chances of cancer and other health issues. “It’s time for action, not more plans, and that’s what this Administrator will deliver,” he declared in a press statement.
Other states such as New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Michigan, and New York have already begun to regulate the use of these chemicals, and the EU has banned the use of many of these forever chemicals completely.