EPA weighs greater reporting of 'forever chemicals'

EPA weighs greater reporting of 'forever chemicals'
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering increasing the monitoring of a cancer-linked chemical that has been leaching into the water supply.

Their efforts focus on a class of chemicals abbreviated as PFAS, which are used on a variety of nonstick products like raincoats and cookware. One study found that 99 percent of individuals 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.

EPA’s announcement Monday asked the public to weigh in on a proposal to add PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which would push municipalities to alert people right away if the substance has been found in tap water.

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It would also require manufacturers who use PFAS to report annually how much of each chemical is released to the environment.

“Exploring the addition of certain PFAS chemicals to the TRI is an important step that can enhance this tool and provide important information to the public on these chemicals for the first time,” EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA to resume contract negotiations with employee union Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits Latest EPA guidance weakens air protections in favor of industry, critics say MORE said in a release.

The early-stage proposal does not set a limit for what would require municipalities and manufacturers to start reporting on PFAS, instead asking them to weigh in on what level is appropriate. 

The agency did say, however, that it was weighing setting that number lower than the usual threshold. 

“It’s good they are proposing this 'cause we’ve been waiting for them to move forward with their commitment in the PFAS action plan,” said Betsy Southerland, who was director of the Office of Science and Technology at the EPA’s Office of Water under the Obama administration.  

“But we won’t know how good it is until they propose what limit they will set for PFOA and PFOS,” she said, referring to two types of PFAS. “That’s going to be the key concern.”

Lawmakers have been weighing whether to add PFAS to the TRI list as part of the defense policy bill, and such a measure is already included in a sweeping House bill on "forever chemicals."  

Democrats have also been pushing the EPA to turn over their plans for setting a drinking water standard for PFAS, which would compel utilities to ensure they don’t have more of the substance in their water than would be allowed.

EPA has said it will decide by the end of the year whether to move forward with crafting a drinking water standard.