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What to Know About the EPA Limits on “Forever Chemicals” in Drinking Water and Your Health

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image of graphic of white and brown chemicals

Wall Street Journal, April 2024

In the eight decades since they were created, so-called forever chemicals have reached remote corners of the Arctic and populous cities and rural areas around the world. The chemicals have been detected in the open ocean and the tissue of animal species, as well as the drinking water that millions of Americans consume each day. Also known as PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, they can stay in the environment for years without breaking down. Nearly all people in the U.S. are believed to have some level of PFAS in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is because these harmful chemicals can be found in a range of products, from cosmetics and fish, to food packaging and nonstick cookware, in addition to the water supply. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the first federal limits on PFAS in public drinking water, which would require water utilities to filter out certain PFAS that have contaminated water supplies. Scientists are still studying the effects of human exposure to PFAS. Here’s what to know.

These are a class of thousands of compounds that have been used in consumer products and industrial manufacturing since the 1940s, often as slippery coatings to repel water or stains. They are found in such products as carpets and cosmetics, according to the EPA. PFAS are also in coatings for food wrappers and in dental floss, and are used in some electronics manufacturing. They can also be found in firefighting foams used at airports and military bases.

Read more at Wall Street Journal.

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