Napoli Shkolnik Commends EPA On New PFAS Health Advisories

EPA PFAS Health Advisories

As one of the nation’s leading litigation firms in the field of environmental law, we commend the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the groundbreaking drinking water health advisory levels the agency released earlier this week for four PFAS chemicals found in thousands of water systems across the country.

The health advisory levels or HALs, which were issued on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, identify the maximum levels of these PFAS chemicals that EPA currently believes protect all people, including sensitive populations and life stages, from adverse health effects due to exposure.

The four PFAS chemicals addressed in the health advisories include perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorobutance sulfonic acid (PFBS), and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (GenX).

PFOS and PFOA are the two of the most widely studied chemicals in the PFAS group and until the early 2000s were used in a wide range of products, including firefighting foams used by military and airports for decades. EPA’s actions on Wednesday lower the health advisory levels for PFOS and PFOA from a combined level of 70 parts per trillion or ppt, which the agency had issued in May 2016, to 0.02 ppt for PFOS and 0.004 ppt for PFOA—levels that are below what can even be detected using standard PFAS testing methods.

According to EPA, it felt the need to revisit the health advisories for PFOS and PFOA because “the levels at which negative health effects could occur are much lower than previously understood when EPA issued the 2016 health advisories for PFOA and PFOS – including near zero for certain health effects.”

EPA had not previously issued health advisory levels for PFBS or GenX, which in recent years have been considered replacements for PFOS and PFOA in chemical and product manufacturing.

EPA issued final health advisory levels for these two PFAS of 2,000 ppt for PFBS and 10 ppt for GenX.

“This is a tremendous step forward for tens of millions of Americans at risk of developing cancer and other deadly diseases from simply drinking tap water at home they trust the government to protect,” said Paul Napoli, Partner at Napoli Shkolnik.

In his 2021 article, Product Liability Law: Another Weapon in The Arsenal Against Environmental Contamination, he observed:

Thousands of unregulated, “emerging” contaminants have yet to be listed as hazardous substances under CERCLA [the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act].

To make matters worse, there are potentially tens of thousands of unregulated, “emerging” contaminants such as PFAS that neither CERCLA nor RCRA [the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act] can provide a remedy for because they have yet to be listed as hazardous substances under CERCLA.

About PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are harmful, man-made chemicals that include PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid, and PFOS, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid.

These chemicals have been manufactured by a variety of industries all over the world since the 1940s. Poor handling and disposal of these chemicals has led to the contamination of natural water sources through the contamination of ground water wells and rivers.

Water districts and treatment plants have had to foot the bill for the removal of PFAS from their water treatment systems. More than 1500 drinking water systems across the U.S. may be contaminated with PFOA and PFOS.

According to a May 2018 Environmental Working Group (EWG) Report.

PFAS chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body. This means that they don’t break down and can accumulate over time.

There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to negative health effects to humans.

Studies have shown an association between increased PFOA and PFOS blood levels and an increased risk for several health effects, including effects on the liver and the immune system, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, and cancer (testicular and kidney).