Understanding Federal PFAS Restrictions

Wooden blocks display PFAS
Wooden blocks display PFAS | Image by robert brown/Getty Images

Earlier this month, federal officials released the first-ever restrictions on polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water. Here is everything you need to know.

What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS or by the nickname “forever chemicals,” are a class of substances the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) associates with higher risks of certain medical conditions, like low fertility and cancer.

The nickname comes from the fact that the substances do not break down. As a result, they can persist in water, soil, and even the human body indefinitely.

Overview of the New Federal Restrictions

On April 10, the EPA initiated a new rule that caps the allowable level of five separate types of PFAS. The maximum containment level ranges from four to 10 parts per trillion. For perspective, one part per trillion is the equivalent of one second in 32,000 years.

In other words, the allowable limit is astronomically small.

Is My Drinking Water Safe?

As reported by The Dallas Express, 49 of the 420 water systems tested in the state showed levels of PFAS above what the EPA deems safe.

Treavor H. Boyer, a professor of engineering at Arizona State University, recommends reaching out to your local utility to request they test the public drinking water system for PFAS. If the system has already been tested, request the results. If the readings come back showing unsafe levels, ask how your utility intends to address the PFAS contamination.

If you prefer to take on a more active role in addressing the risk, consider installing water treatment filters directly in your home. These can be installed where the main water line enters your property. The EPA says activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange are three filtration technologies that have been shown to help remove certain PFAS.

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