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Policy Summary
After persistent national outcry, the EPA has announced it will regulate a group of long-lasting chemicals, called polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have been linked to reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects. The action plan creates a “maximum contaminate level” for PFAS, therefore lowering the ratio between drinking water and the substances that have also been found to contribute to low birth weights, thyroid problems and some cancers. The widespread contamination of these compounds has been felt across America, as they are used in nonstick cookware, water-repellant fabrics, grease-resistant paper products, and firefighting foams. The acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated in a news conference in Philadelphia that the EPA would set a limit for the chemicals under the Safe Drinking Act by the end of this year. This action plan’s key components are: nationwide drinking water monitoring of PFAS,  expand research on managing the risks and effects of PFAS, and continue and develop groundwater cleanup strategies.

Analysis
The unregulated contamination of drinking water has left communities and military bases fearful and scrambling upon the revelation of high PFAS in drinking water. Military bases and areas around them are exponentially affected due to the use of fire fighting foams that are knowingly riddled with PFAS during training exercises. The presence of PFAS are not new and the implementation of this act is coming at a time when lives have already been affected. Critics finds that the EPA and administration are making grandiose claims implying  stark changes, but recalling past approaches and responses to such outcry, little optimism exists. Last year, the Trump administration also tried to block the publication of a  health study(cite) by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that suggested the current regulations were inadequate and urged a much lower threshold of exposure to these compounds. In response to the EPA’s ineptitude, many states have already taken steps in limiting or banning such PFAS and addressing their threat to public safety*.

While this is a step in the right direction, the process of getting a handle on such toxins will take months, if not years, due to their widespread use and presence. Additionally, there is reasonable concern about  this action plan being successfully executed due to Trump’s recent proposal to reduce the EPA’s funding by 31% ; Reduced spending reduces resources, which reduces the efficacy of this plan in cleaning up communities saturated with PFAS. Finally, this plan of action is exactly what the name suggests, a plan, but not definitive policy or mandates that are enforced and causing concrete change.

*States that took action are Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

  • Resistance Resources:
  • Comment directly on EPA proposed regulations, make your voice heard – Note: Commenting privileges are available for 60-90 days after a proposed regulation is announced.
  • Clean water for all campaign : An organization promoting water access as a human right.
  • National Drinking Water Alliance : A network of organizations and individuals across America working to ensure all children have access to safe drinking water.

Contact: This brief was authored by Taylor J Smith Contact: Taylor@usresistnews.org

  • Learn More
  • EPA official statement announcing plan
  • EPA Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan – Full
  • EPA Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan – Fact sheet
  • Community in Michigan drastically impacted by PFAS.
  • Additional criticism of “action” plan.
  • Announcement by Andrew Wheeler and America’s history with PFAS:
  • Proposed budget cuts, EPA is severely impacted.
  • Additional article on regulation of PFAS
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