Democrat pushes FDA to act after 'forever chemicals' found in bottled water

Democrat pushes FDA to act after 'forever chemicals' found in bottled water
© Aaron Schwartz

A Democratic senator is pushing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to limit contaminants in drinking water after so-called forever chemicals surfaced in bottled water.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged the agency in a Monday letter to set a drinking water standard for a class of chemicals abbreviated as PFAS whether they are found in bottled or tap water.

PFAS, known as forever chemicals due to their persistence in the environment, have leached into the water supply after years of use in a wide range of products like teflon pans, raincoats and firefighting foam. The substance has been linked with numerous health issues, including some types of cancer.

Lawmakers have been pushing various agencies to deal with PFAS contamination, but those calls have largely been focused on contamination at military bases and on pressuring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a limit on how much of the substance can be present in drinking water.

Blumenthal’s letter to the FDA calls for help from an agency often on the sidelines of contamination issues despite its purview over food and bottled water.

“Given the widespread persistence of PFAS in our environment and drinking water, many people have turned to bottled water to avoid adding toxins to their bodies. In light of this, it is especially concerning that bottled water may contain PFAS in unsafe concentrations. My constituents, as well as many other Americans, continue to be exposed to these toxic substances. I urge the FDA act expeditiously to tackle this national crisis in consultation with other federal agencies,” Blumenthal wrote.

His letter was spurred by reports earlier this month that PFAS was found in bottled water from the Spring Hill Farm Dairy in Massachusetts, leading the state to issue a health advisory for pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants.

A spokesman for the FDA said the agency would respond directly to Blumenthal. 

The EPA currently recommends drinking water not have more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS, but it is not a requirement. Blumenthal is asking the FDA to require the products it oversees not have more than 70 ppt of PFAS and to limit two specific forms of PFAS to under 15 ppt.

Calls to regulate PFAS in drinking water have thus far largely been directed at EPA, which has said it will decide by the end of the year whether to set such a standard for PFAS. Many lawmakers argue the agency is moving too slowly to address the spreading contamination from PFAS. The Senate version of the defense policy bill includes a measure that requires the EPA to set a drinking water standard

The EPA did not respond to request for comment.