New PFAS Regulation: Biden's Move to Safeguard Drinking Water

17 April 2024

New Regulation on PFAS Chemicals: A Turning Point for Drinking Water Safety

The Biden administration has taken a significant step in regulating drinking water quality by setting strict limits on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”. These substances, persistent in the environment and risky for health, are now subject to national standards for the first time in the United States.

The Broad Impact of PFAS Regulation

For the first time, regulators have set a national limit on PFAS in drinking water, specifically targeting two common types: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). These chemicals have links to various health issues, including cancer, liver disease, and low birth weight. The new rule mandates that water utilities reduce these substances to the lowest detectable levels, marking a critical shift towards safeguarding public health.

Challenges Ahead: The Cost of Compliance for Water Utilities

This rule is expected to reduce exposure for over 100 million people and help prevent thousands of illnesses. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the implementation of these regulations will cost approximately $1.5 billion annually but will prevent nearly 10,000 deaths over decades and significantly reduce serious illnesses.

Therefore, water providers will face new challenges as they must install expensive treatment systems. Subsequently, this cost is anticipated to be particularly burdensome for smaller communities with fewer resources. However, some funding is available through recent settlements and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which allocates billions to combat these substances.

Navigating Reactions to PFAS Regulation

The regulation aligns with the Biden administration’s priority to make tap water safer for millions of consumers. Nonetheless, it has faced mixed reactions. Health and environmental advocates have praised the EPA for its firm stance, whereas water utilities have expressed concerns over the high costs and the potential increase in water bills for consumers.

In contrast, utility groups are preparing for possible legal challenges, arguing that the costs could reach tens of billions of dollars and would be most challenging for small communities. Despite these concerns, the regulation represents a monumental step by EPA in addressing the widespread issue of PFAS contamination.

Future Focus: The Expanding Battle Against “forever chemicals”

As the nation grapples with the implications of these new limits, the focus remains on improving water safety and reducing public health risks. Indeed, the Biden administration’s proactive stance on PFAS reflects a broader commitment to environmental health and sustainability. This perspective sets a precedent for future actions against other harmful pollutants.

The global fight against PFAS, involving multiple nations, underscores the urgency and importance of addressing these persistent environmental threats. Indeed, this initiative is not isolated to the United States. Other countries are also taking decisive steps to fight PFAS contamination. For example, France has recently made headlines with its bold policies against PFAS, which you can read about in detail on our blog post: Turning the Tide: France’s Bold Move Against PFAS.

How can Lisam assist with the anticipated PFAS restrictions?

As PFAS regulations tighten, Lisam’s ExESS provides essential support and functions to address anticipated restrictions on ‘forever chemicals’. ExESS simplifies the creation and management of safety data sheets and other safety documents, helping your company properly streamline compliance processes. ExESS not only assists in adhering to SDS regulations but also enhances overall product stewardship, ensuring responsible management and accountability throughout the product lifecycle.

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