It’s a start. On June 15, the EPA announced adjustments to its acceptable limits of two specific PFAS and first-time guidances of four others, but hundreds remain largely unaddressed.

The announcement focused on two PFAS that are primarily found in contaminated drinking water. perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) saw their “acceptable” health advisory levels drop to 0.004 parts per trillion and 0.02 ppt., respectively. That’s a seismic shift from the 70 ppt the EPA recommended in 2016.

What Do The Health Advisory Levels Do?

The shortcomings of this announcement are myriad, but two major concerns are voiced by advocates. First, these are just two of potentially hundreds of variations of PFAS chemicals found not only in drinking water but in everyday items ranging from fast food wrappers to rain gear.

Second, there’s no requirement to act. These advisory levels simply recommend that water utilities inform customers when contamination levels exceed these benchmarks. There’s no legal requirement to do so, nor any requirement that utilities must actively address levels.

Read more on how it affects water customers.

DuPont and 3M Remain in the Crosshairs

The same announcement included advisory levels for PFAS produced by the GenX process. Currently owned by Chemours, the process manufactures fluoropolymers and both of these PFAS are limited to 10 ppt.

These PFAS are primarily found in West Virginia, a chemical facility that operated for decades under DuPont before being spun off as Chemours in 2015, largely to distance the DuPont brand from decades of controversy and legal wrangling.

In many ways, this serves as a sign that the EPA might finally be taking PFAS seriously, though much work remains to be done. Specifically, advisory levels are toothless; there is little to no enforcement of these levels to protect water utility customers, nor do they address the course of contamination, whether caused by past manufacturers or existing companies.

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