Protecting Communities from Exposure to Harmful PFAS Chemicals: The Urgent Need for Safe Drinking Water Standards in the Absence of Federal Action

April 24, 2019 @ 10:00am (AKDT)

The Dunleavy Administration announced in April 2019 that it would roll back Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) health protective PFAS contamination cleanup guidelines. The State had been taking a more precautionary approach than the EPA by testing for six PFAS instead of only the two that the EPA has been monitoring (PFOA and PFOS). This teleconference focuses on actions taken by states that unwilling to put public health in jeopardy while waiting for the EPA to take action. Several states are moving forward to establish protective, enforceable standards for PFAS, in drinking water.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are highly persistent, highly mobile, and highly toxic.  As communities across the U.S. discover that their drinking water is contaminated by PFAS (originating from industrial facilities, airports, military installations, landfills, and other sites), state agencies and the EPA are responding in different ways. On this call, our speakers discuss how and why numerous states are taking action to establish their own enforceable PFAS contamination guidelines to protect drinking water safety and address this public health crisis rather than wait for the EPA to regulate PFAS through the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Speakers discussed:

  • Evidence supporting the need for stringent, health-protective drinking water standards for both well-studied PFAS and the PFAS class of chemicals.
  • Why current or proposed state drinking water guidelines for PFOA and/or PFOS (the most widely studied and monitored PFAS) vary so widely, ranging from 13 ppt to 1000 ppt, compared to the EPA’s health advisory of 70 ppt for PFOS and PFOA individually or combined.
  • The multiple scientific, technical, and social factors that influence the development of these drinking water guideline levels.
  • Why the traditional water guidance paradigm is inadequate to address maternal-to-infant transfer of accumulated levels of PFAS through placental transfer and breastfeeding, how the Minnesota Department of Health developed models to take these exposure pathways into account to assist in risk assessment, and how these models are being applied to various states’ proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS and PFNA.
  • How the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has conducted the most comprehensive PFAS monitoring in the country and why these data are so important for developing policies to protect public health.

Featured speakers

Alissa Cordner, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Whitman College

Katie Pelch, PhD, Senior Scientist, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Anna Reade, PhD, Staff Scientist, Healthy People & Thriving Communities program, Natural Resources Defense Council

Laurel Schaider, PhD, Research Scientist, Silent Spring Institute

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