Oversight Democrats ask EPA to turn over plans for regulating toxic 'forever chemicals'

Oversight Democrats ask EPA to turn over plans for regulating toxic 'forever chemicals'
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to turn over documents showing how the agency plans to regulate a cancer-linked chemical that has been leaching into the water supply across the country.

The chemical, abbreviated as PFAS, is widely used in a number of nonstick products like cookware and raincoats. One study found that 99 percent of those tested had PFAS traces in their blood, and it’s been deemed a “forever chemical” due to its persistence in both the body and the environment.

It’s also been found in the water supply in nearly every state in the country, leading to health issues for people who have been exposed.


In a letter from Reps. Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaRepublicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' California was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (D-Calif.) and Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeUS files first trade complaint against Mexico over tampered union vote at GM plant NC House ending remote voting for lawmakers House GOP campaign arm adds to target list MORE (D-Mich.), Democrats argue the agency is taking too long to take action on the substance.

“With EPA's end-of-year deadline quickly approaching for proposed regulation of these toxic ‘forever chemicals’ it has become increasingly apparent that America's water will not be cleaned without immediate federal action,” they wrote.

Rouda and Kildee said lobbying efforts from PFAS manufacturers “have raised serious concerns that EPA will not take action to regulate this toxic ‘forever chemicals’ by the end of the year.”

The duo are asking the EPA to turn over a list of all stakeholders, including PFAS manufacturing lobbyists, that the agency has consulted with in weighing regulation.

PFAS isn’t currently regulated by the EPA when it comes to tap water — the agency has a voluntary recommendation that water contain no more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS.

But critics have been pushing the agency to set a formal drinking water standard that would force municipalities to regulate how much PFAS is in their water, something many argue should be more stringent than 70 ppt.


The EPA has promised to determine whether to set a drinking water standard by the end of the — but lawmakers have doubts they can meet that deadline. 

Though a press release early this month restated its commitment to announcing its next step on PFAS by the end of the year, the lawmakers said EPA “gave no indication of the substance of the determination.

The recent press release also failed to identify a timeframe for an EPA determination regarding other PFAS chemicals.”

The EPA said they were alerted to the letter by The Hill.

“It’s unfortunate that this is the first anyone at the agency is seeing the letter. We will respond through proper channels once the committee actually sends it to EPA,” a spokeswoman for the agency said by email.

Health advocates have been critical of the pace of action by the agency, arguing that even if the EPA decides to set a drinking water standard for PFAS, it could still take years to determine what contamination level should be used.

A House committee on Wednesday forwarded legislation that would broadly regulate PFAS, including a measure that would force EPA to set a drinking water standard. 

Updated at 2:09 p.m.