EPA Issuing Stricter Standards for Amount of Industrial Chemicals in Water

EPA, Cancer tap water

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking measures to protect the public from cancer, issuing stricter standards for the amount of industrial chemicals in water.

Cancer-causing chemicals are present in many consumer products, such as non-stick cooking ware and microwavable popcorn bags. However, these chemicals have also been found in tap water—particularly in areas close to industrial sites.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and Perfluorooctanoic acid are industrial chemicals that can cause cancer. The chemicals have been linked to testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and birth defects.

Almost all Americans have small amounts of these chemicals present in their bloodstreams. People can be exposed through food, water, and consumer products. However, long-term exposure or increased exposure to these chemicals can be a particular health risk.

Some communities have much higher levels of the chemicals in their drinking water, prompting the new tightened standards from the EPA. Previously, the EPA set a lower limit for these chemicals of 400 parts per trillion, saying that short-term exposure to this concentration of chemicals could have adverse health impacts.

However, the EPA is now lowering these limits, accounting for long-term exposure as well. Under the EPA’s new limits, long-term exposure to concentrations above 70 parts per trillion could cause health problems.

As recently as 2013, the EPA tested cities’ and towns’ water systems for PFOA. All of the water systems were found to be safe, but that was under the old standards. It is believed that many municipalities will exceed these newer limits.

With the EPA’s new standards, water systems that exceed the concentrations will be advised to warn the public and seek consultation from state agencies.

Both PFOS and PFOA can be of major concern for pregnant women, as well as women who are nursing. The chemicals can cause birth defects, as well as developmental problems in children who are being breastfed contaminated milk.

A previous study by researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that there was a link between fetal exposure to these chemicals and lower birthweight and head circumference.

EPA have been called by Public advocacy groups to address this issue for years.

Biesecker, M., “EPA issues tighter limits for industrial chemical in water (Update),” PHYS, May 19, 2016; http://phys.org/news/2016-05-epa-issues-tighter-limits-industrial.html.
“PFOS and PFOA Exposure Associated with Lower Birth Weight and Size,” John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, August 17, 2007; http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2007/goldman-pfoa-pfos-birthweight.html