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EPA Finalizes First Enforceable Standards for Toxic PFAS


Washington, D.C.— The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has officially set the first-ever nationwide restrictions on six dangerous PFAS chemicals in drinking water. This move will protect communities impacted by PFAS exposure by averting illnesses resulting from PFAS contamination.

PFAS, commonly called "forever chemicals," are prevalent in drinking water and can linger in the environment, presenting potential health hazards even in minimal amounts. Addressing contamination at the source is essential to prevent these health risks, and drinking water is a significant route of PFAS exposure.


The tireless efforts of community leaders across the nation, uniting and speaking up, have resulted in the implementation of the final rule. This marks the first time the EPA has set limits on the amount of PFAS chemicals allowed in drinking water sources. The new rule aims to ensure safer drinking water for all Americans. The finalized drinking water standards are:


  • 4 parts per trillion for PFOA

  • 4 parts per trillion for PFOS

  • A standard based on the hazard of a mixture of four PFAS chemicals: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and HFPO-DA (commonly known as Gen X)

  • 10 parts per trillion for PFNA

  • 10 parts per trillion for PFHxS

  • 10 parts per trillion for HFPO-DA


Under EPA’s proposal, drinking water utilities will be required to test water for PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS, PFNA, and PFHxS and install treatment technologies to reduce the concentrations of these chemicals to the level of EPA’s proposed “maximum contaminant levels” or lower. Fortunately, proven technology is available that will not only reduce the presence of the six PFAS in EPA’s proposal but will also improve protection against other PFAS compounds and common contaminants.


While some water utilities have already installed water treatment technology capable of reducing PFAS, many are not yet equipped. To help communities, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $9 billion in funding for drinking water treatment upgrades and an additional $11.7 billion for other necessary drinking water infrastructure needs. This funding will aid utilities in meeting EPA’s proposed drinking water standards and improve drinking water safety.


For 50 Years, Polluters Knew PFAS Chemicals Were Dangerous


Chemical manufacturers have been aware of the harmful effects of PFAS on the environment and human health since the 1960s. Despite knowing the risks, the ongoing production of these chemicals for more than fifty years has left many frustrated with the delay in taking action to address this issue.



Zeroing In on the Problem: Addressing the Presence of Carcinogens in Water Supplies 


Witnessing the distressing levels of PFAS chemicals in their community's water supply, a group of resilient young cancer survivors in the sunny state of Florida took it upon themselves to make a difference. Their determination sparked Fight for Zero, a nonprofit organization committed to safeguarding health by eliminating harmful environmental exposures. Originating from Brevard County, Florida, these courageous survivors unveiled some of the most alarming contamination levels in the nation.


In 2018, Patrick Space Force Base was pinpointed as the third-highest hotspot for PFAS chemicals in the US. The Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station also detected high levels of these harmful substances, exceeding safety thresholds. As awareness grows among cancer survivors regarding PFAS, contamination has been revealed in various locations throughout the state.

"The legally enforceable drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals comes decades after manufacturers were aware of the harm these chemicals posed to the environment and human health. Fight for Zero commends the EPA for safeguarding Americans from hazardous PFAS chemicals in their water supply. The fight to ensure communities are safe from dangerous chemicals in their water is ongoing, and it's vital for the EPA to keep regulating based on science and health protection rather than bowing down to polluters contaminating natural resources nationwide." - Fight for Zero Team 

The widespread pollution of PFAS has resulted in almost every individual in the United States having detectable levels in their bodies. The first step to tackle this issue is to regulate the exposure of PFAS in drinking water. The EPA will still need to address PFAS contamination in groundwater and through disposal, such as burning chemicals, air, and consumer products. Other important duties the agency will be tasked with include cleaning up Superfund sites with PFAS contamination and stopping new PFAS from entering the market.



Families Diagnosed with Cancer Post-Moving from PFAS-Affected Areas


After living in the town for years, Jeff Dubitsky, Fight for Zero's Vice President, moved away from Satellite Beach, Florida. In 2018, he discovered widespread PFAS contamination in the city's groundwater and legacy contamination from a nearby base. Believing he could safeguard his family by filtering the water, he realized he had learned of the problem too late. Regrettably, he found out that his family had not left soon enough, and they are now facing the consequences of cancer. He expresses, 

"It's difficult to celebrate something that should have been done decades ago, especially when we're still grappling with the heartache and sorrow of losing loved ones who never should have experienced such agony and suffering due to contaminated water. This is why the EPA must stand on the right side of history." 

Dubitsky's family has endured a difficult past five months, constantly in and out of hospitals for testing and urging doctors to include their environmental exposure in their medical records. Their lives have been completely uprooted by the responsibilities of caregiving and being patients as they struggle to navigate the flawed healthcare system and cope with the financial hardships that come with such a diagnosis. Dubitsky fears that there are still individuals in the community who remain unaware of the environmental issues in Brevard County, Florida


Another Satellite Beach advocate, Jennifer Jackson, has firsthand experience with environmental exposures and their impact on the community. Diagnosed with cancer during the initial investigations into a Satellite Beach cancer cluster in the 90s, she remembers how some residents were unaware of the harmful chemicals in the water or the possibility of vapor intrusion into their homes in South Patrick Shores. Living next to an air force base that used PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam, the community now faces a legacy of cancer cases among neighbors. Jennifer stresses the importance of transparency and accountability in addressing public health risks, especially for those with compromised immune systems like herself.

"I wish when people first knew that PFOA and PFOS could kill animals as well as humans, they didn't hide it or shame people for blowing the whistle about the potential to do harm. Thankfully, I am witnessing more education, transparency, and legislation changes such as this one today due to citizens rising to FIGHT FOR ZERO contamination in our drinking water," said Jackson.

PFAS Found in Mims, Titusville, and Palm Bay's Drinking Water


Brevard County has three active installations that used firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals. Unfortunately, these contaminants have infiltrated the waterways and are not easily broken down. The chemicals have been found in the local wildlife's blood, soil, air filters, and drinking water. In response, the city of Titusville joined a class action settlement against the manufacturers of PFAS chemicals, namely 3M and Dupont. 


Elizabeth Baker, a resident of Titusville, firmly believes that these chemicals have affected her family's health, leading to gastrointestinal diseases. She has noticed that almost everyone she encounters suffers from a health ailment. After discovering that exposure to PFAS can cause inflammation and even destruction of the gut, she became determined to protect others from falling ill. This determination was further fueled by alarming test results from her tap water.

"Though long overdue, this is an excellent step towards a major shift in how we do things. We have to stop the sources of pollution, and active enforcement is a great way to lead corporations to more responsible practices. Everyone deserves water, soil, air, and food free of chemicals that make them and their communities sick," said Baker. 

Cancer survivors detected PFOA and PFOS in Turkey Creek's drinking water during their 2020 public fountain PFAS project. They received no response despite informing state representative Randy Fine and the Palm Bay council. However, in 2021, Representative Fine included PFAS in HB 387, allowing homeowners to use PACE loans to address contamination. This shifted the burden to taxpayers, highlighting the need for federal intervention to protect all Americans, especially when states like Florida fail to act and hold polluters accountable.


On January 9, 2023, samples collected from Mims water treatment facility in Brevard County revealed PFAS chemicals exceeding the enforceable limits.

"It is crucial that the federal government takes action to regulate PFAS chemicals, as Florida's state legislators have failed to adequately protect residents from PFAS contamination. Agencies that prioritize our health by adhering to scientific evidence and supporting effected communities are making a significant impact," Cheryl Jozsa, Fight for Zero West Coast Director.

The Safe Drinking Water Act mandates that national drinking water standards offer a real chance to decrease health hazards. EPA’s plan accomplishes this by notably decreasing exposure to PFAS in drinking water, reducing the risks of associated health effects.


Widespread PFAS Contamination 


PFAS contamination has been found in various locations across Florida, not just in Brevard County. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has identified PFAS at military bases, former defense sites, fire training facilities, waste facilities, water treatment plants, reclaimed water spray fields, biosolids, textile manufacturing facilities, paper mills, airports, and superfund sites.


The EPA estimates that 94 million Americans currently receive drinking water contaminated by one or more of these PFAS chemicals at levels above the limits proposed by EPA. The regulation of PFAS will improve drinking water safety for millions of Americans.

"There are firefighters impacted by the contamination, military personnel who are not getting proper care from the VA, farmers dealing with sick cows, mothers struggling with infertility, and fathers who have tragically lost their children due to these persistent chemicals. While regulating PFAS in drinking water cannot reverse the losses endured, it represents a step in the right direction. 
Hopefully, this will also raise awareness about the need for a robust protection agency with adequate funding and the ability to validate scientific findings before irreversible harm occurs," Stel Bailey, Fight for Zero Executive Director.

What Are PFAS Chemicals? 


PFAS, which stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, encompasses over 12,000 toxic chemicals that are extensively utilized. The prevalence of PFAS contamination is widespread, affecting many individuals. Due to its contamination of approximately 200 million people's drinking water sources, traces of PFAS can be found in the bodies of almost every resident in the United States. The spread of PFAS contamination is alarming as even minimal exposure can lead to the development of health issues such as thyroid problems or cancer.


How can I be Exposed to PFAS?


Drinking contaminated water, eating fish caught in water contaminated with PFAS, eating food packed with PFAS materials, and breathing in the air if you live near incineration. 


How long does PFAS remain in the body?


On average, PFAS can remain in the body for two to nine years. 


How can PFAS Potentially Affect Health? 


  • Increased cholesterol levels

  • Changes in liver enzymes

  • Impacts on the human immune system

  • Increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

  • Small decreases in infant birth weight

  • Developmental effects

  • Changes in hormone levels

  • Reproductive effects

  • Higher risk of certain cancers


Further references and resources for additional information:


  1. 2018 Department of Defense Report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1z4BOx4oW0ljx89tJU487qRHRAs6akEYv/view?usp=sharing

  2. Brevard County PFAS Fountain Project: https://www.fight4zero.org/fountainproject

  3. HB 387: https://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0387__.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0387&Session=2021&fbclid=IwAR34WDGN66luJIj5XvTMYsn2757PH1YknMksV3RkfT6uXA4Wq5Nfhyn-uyo_aem_AXOHn_wHEXSyZ5yq4K_p7mW-RIeHtJHb44i97MEpDJdyHVXNCYGeIHghg6jNk1phn-XbLOaMvHTA_cM_QXBMKR0b

  4. Population-Wide Exposure to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance from Drinking Water in the United States: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00713

  5. Even Low Exposure Levels can Cause People to Develop Illnesses like Thyroid Disease and Cancer: https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2022-06/interim-pfoa-2022.pdf

  6. PFAS Substances Exposures and its Influence on the Intestinal Barrier: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36055502/

  7. PFOS Exacerbates Ongoing Inflammation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8713990/

  8. Army PFAS Status: https://aec.army.mil/index.php/PFAS

  9. Air Force Civil Engineering Center PFAS: https://www.afcec.af.mil/Home/Environment/Perfluorinated-Compounds/

  10. FIU Institute of Environment PFAS Toxicity Study: https://environment.fiu.edu/what-we-study/projects/pfas-toxicity-study/

  11. UF Building Resilience to PFAS Exposure on VUlnerable Coastal Communities Prone to Extreme Weather Floods: Brevard County as a Case Study: https://egh.phhp.ufl.edu/2020/06/18/dr-eric-coker-his-team-set-to-receive-epa-grant-for-research-on-pfas-exposure/

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