(HealthDay News) — The Biden administration has proposed the first-ever national standard on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which would require US public water systems to reduce the level of PFAS in drinking water.

PFAS, which are found in a range of goods, are also called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment or in the human body. A 2020 study suggested that roughly 200 million Americans were exposed to PFAS in their water.

PFAS are linked to cancer, liver damage, fertility issues, thyroid problems, and asthma. The chemicals are also a threat to wildlife.

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Because of these risks, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed establishing legally enforceable levels for 6 PFAS found in drinking water. If finalized, this proposal would require public water systems to monitor for these PFAS, notify the public about the levels of these PFAS, and reduce the levels of these PFAS in drinking water if they exceed the proposed standards.

Two of the 6 PFAS in question — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) — would be regulated individually, and levels of each would be limited to 4.0 parts per trillion

The 4 other PFAS would be regulated together. These are perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS), and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid and its ammonium salt (GenX Chemicals). A hazard index calculation would be used to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk.

“EPA’s proposal to establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science,” Michael Regan, administrator of the EPA, said in an agency news release. “This action has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants.”

The EPA will accept public comments on the regulation for 60 days.

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