The Disturbing Reason The EPA Issued A Warning About Drinking Water

Most people are aware of the chemical substance that give cooking pans their non-stick quality, keep our outdoor gear waterproof, and our soft furnishings stain-proof. It's even in our fast food packaging. As a result, the substance has been making its way into our lives for, what seems like, a very long time.

But it has only been in the last few years that we've become much more aware of the dangers posed by PFAS, or poly and perfluoroalkyl substances, per NPR, and because they have been used for decades, they've made their way into our soil and our drinking water. As the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum points out, "We're finding them contaminating many rivers, many lakes, many drinking water supplies. And we're finding them not only in the environment, but we're finding them in people."

Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released new warnings involving PFAS, saying that the chemical which has been linked to health problems, including certain types of cancer and liver disease, can contribute to these issues even when exposed to barely detectable amounts. This is significant because they are contaminating our drinking water (per Reuters). As a result, the EPA will be issuing new rules and guidelines to regulate the chemical. The agency is also taking action against PFAS in drinking water by earmarking $1 billion to help states with water quality testing and by installing centralized treatment systems.

EPA's new rule may be a case of better late than never

The action against PFAS could well be seen as "better late than never" for non-profit organizations, like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which in 2020 warned that the chemical was detected in major water supplies across the country. In one study, EWG found that out of samples taken from 44 localities in 31 states, only one area had no detectable PFAS.

The American Chemistry Council — which counts big chemical firms 3M and DuPont as its members — says the EPA had "rushed the notices" about PFAS in water without waiting for a review from the Council's Science Advisory Board (per Reuters). But as far as the EPA's Administrator Michael Regan is concerned, there seemed to be no time like the present. 

"People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long. That's why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge," Regan said in a statement (per NPR). The new rules replace advisories that had been issued in 2016, and they now warn that lifetime exposure to PFAS, regardless of amount, could trigger health problems. 

The EPA is targeting the release of updated drinking water regulations before the end of this year, with"a final rule expected in 2023." This new information begs the question, is there a real difference between bottled and tap water?