On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would publish a proposal to set a maximum level of dangerous chemicals allowed in drinking water but that it would be years before full regulations were established.
According to The Guardian, toxic chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA can be found in nonstick pots and pans or food packaging and often seep into groundwater in areas where the products are manufactured. Appearing in drinking water, these chemicals are linked to kidney and testicular cancer, problems with pregnancy, and thyroid disease.
Similar to other projects by the EPA, the agency has announced that it will take steps to address the chemicals by classifying them as hazardous substances, but will not put any regulatory rules in place. Without these rules, water providers are not required to test for these chemicals, which would runs the risk of allowing citizens to drink contaminated water.
“They want to say: wow, we’re really paralyzed. We can’t make industry clean this stuff up, there’s too much uncertainty. We need years more study. I think they’re very happy that they’ve managed to waste an entire year.” -Betsy Southerland, EPA career staffer & science and technology director under Obama
Although chemical companies claim that the class of chemicals, PFAS, are safer because they do not stay in the human body for long, experts like Southerland disagree and have stated that there is not enough information to make that conclusion. Certain states across the country are taking efforts to set their own standards in place, but it remains difficult without advice directly from the EPA.