If you can detect any, it's too much:
On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had started the process that will see drinking water regulations place severe limits on the levels of several members of the PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemical family. PFAS are widely used but have been associated with a wide range of health issues; their chemical stability has also earned them the term "forever chemicals." The agency is currently soliciting public feedback on rules that will mean that any detectable levels of two chemicals will be too much.
PFAS are a large group of chemicals that have uses in a wide range of products, including non-stick cooking pans, fire control foams, and waterproof clothing. They're primarily useful because of their water-repellant, hydrophobic nature. That nature also tends to keep them from taking part in chemical processes that might otherwise degrade them, so contamination problems tend to stick around long after any PFAS use. And that's bad, given that they seem to have a lot of negative effects on health—the EPA lists cancer risks, immune dysfunction, hormone signaling alterations, liver damage, and reproductive issues.
[...] The most striking thing about the proposal is that two of the chemicals, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) will be set at the limits of our current ability to detect them: four parts per trillion. In other words, if there's any sign of the chemicals present, it would be above the legal limit. (Both of these are acidic hydrocarbons where all of the hydrogen has been replaced by fluorine.)
A second set of related chemicals (PFNA, PFHXs, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals) will be regulated as a collective. Each will have limits set on the levels allowable. The levels of each will be calculated as a percentage of that limit, and the percentages totalled; if they exceed 100 percent, then the regulations will kick in.
As part of its earlier efforts, the EPA has already been providing grants to help water utilities set up to test for these chemicals. It also says that a variety of means of extracting these chemicals from water are now available.
(Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday March 18, @12:43AM (4 children)
Dose makes the poisoner. I doubt threshold of detection is anywhere near a level of harm.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, @01:04PM (3 children)
> Dose makes the poisoner.
It certainly isn't the EPA giving you the dose.
(Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday March 18, @01:45PM (2 children)
Don't be so sure! With such tight regulations, it's common for regulators to avoid enforcement so that society can function. That allows the regulated industry to be worse than it would be under sensible regulation.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, @07:42PM (1 child)
So you agree that EPA should enforce this as aggressively as they can then? That this is none of that run-away uncontrolled environmentalism...?
(Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday March 19, @02:56AM
"As they can" can be very weak. Ideally, regulation should be fully enforced not "as you can". That's not the case now. Too many things just couldn't function IMHO if we did so. This is an example. My bet is that a water system can't comply with this regulation with such a low threshold.
That means that it's likely that regulation will be selectively enforced (assuming it hasn't already happened!). Once that happens, then it's an opportunity to selectively enforce many other regulations as well. Once regulators get in the habit of overlooking PFAS in order to get a functioning water system, then they'll likely overlook other things as well. And some of these might cause real harm - like lead or pathogens.
Regulation should attempt to reduce cost of compliance and not create situations where any activity is in violation of the regulation.