Read the full article by Thomas Zambito (Democrat & Chronicle)

“They’re called ‘forever chemicals’ because it’s just so hard to get rid of them.

Collectively known as PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances), they are found in everyday kitchen products like food packaging and nonstick frying pans, as well as carpets, water-proof jackets and the foam used to fight fires.

Once they degrade, they contaminate the environment and seep into drinking water supplies, creating a litany of health concerns.

Through the years, leading environmental groups have tied them to cancer, low birthweights, thyroid function, and other ailments.

And this month, in a nod to growing concerns, the nation’s leading environmental watchdog — the Environmental Protection Agency — took the rare step of announcing that allowable levels for PFAS in drinking water it established six years ago were far too high.

It issued new health advisories for PFOA and PFOS — two of the most widely used of thousands of PFAS — placing their acceptable drinking water levels near zero, a level so low it currently can’t be measured.

In 2016, the EPA had set the health risk level at 70-parts per trillion. New York went even further four years later, establishing a ten-parts per trillion standard for the chemicals in drinking water.

‘The EPA’s announcement is a game changer,’ said Rob Hayes, the director of Clean Water for Environmental Advocates NY. ‘And it should have huge ripple effects in terms of how New York regulates PFAS in drinking water. EPA science makes clear and confirms what advocates have said for a long time – that there is no safe level of exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.

A trade group for the chemical industry accused the EPA of rushing an announcement before an EPA science advisory board has had the chance to issue its findings on the toxicity of PFOA and PFOS.

‘While they are non-regulatory levels, they will have sweeping implications for policies at the state and federal levels,’ the American Chemical Council said in a statement. ‘Getting the science right is of critical importance.’

The council represents manufacturers like DuPont, 3M and Honeywell.

While non-binding, the EPA’s advisories could influence the direction New York takes in the months ahead.

New York weighing regulation

State officials say they are reviewing the EPA’s latest advisory and are awaiting the release of new PFAS standards, which are expected later this year. 

‘Until then, New York will continue to work closely with EPA on their PFAS guidance, while upholding the strictest regulatory standards possible and using the best available science to ensure protections for water quality and public health,’ state Health Department spokesman Cort Ruddy said.

The EPA’s announcement comes as the state weighs an expansion of the types of PFAS it currently regulates.

Last month, the state’s Drinking Water Council — a group that includes the commissioners of the state Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation as well as experts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and other universities— recommended acceptable drinking water levels for 23 other PFAS that have not previously been regulated.”…