The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently revised its public health advisory on acceptable levels of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) compounds in public water supplies. The advisory are significantly lower than standards the agency established in 2009 as 0.4 ppb for PFOA, and 0.2 ppb for PFOS. In drinking water systems where both compounds are present the advisory recommends a maximum combined level of 0.07 ppb. As a result of this updated advisory, dozens of communities around the country are now considered to have “dangerous drinking water”.
PFOS and PFOA are members of a group of chemicals known as PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals/compounds). Both PFOS and PFOA are very persistent in the environment, and have known health risks including several forms of cancer including kindey, thyroid and testicular cancer.
The report also acknowledged research on human populations that has found associations between PFOS and immune suppression, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and reduced fertility. It also acknowledged a possible connection between PFOS and bladder, colon, and prostate cancer.
The levels released today are based on numerous studies connecting the chemicals with health effects.
-For PFOS, the report notes, studies of lab animals exposed to the chemical reported “developmental effects (decreased body weight, survival, and increased serum glucose levels and insulin resistance in adult offspring), reproductive (mating behavior), liver toxicity (liver weight co-occurring with decreased cholesterol, hepatic steatosis), developmental neurotoxicity (altered spatial learning and memory), immune effects, and cancer (thyroid and liver).”
-For PFOA, the research included studies on monkeys, rats, and mice showing “developmental effects (survival, body weight changes, reduced ossification, delays in eye opening, altered puberty, and retarded mammary gland development), liver toxicity (hypertrophy, necrosis, and effects on the metabolism and deposition of dietary lipids), kidney toxicity (weight), immune effects, and cancer (liver, testicular, and pancreatic).”
The new health advisory for PFOA was also based on human studies, which showed “associations between PFOA exposure and high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, and cancer (testicular and kidney).” The EPA report noted that in humans “the developing fetus and newborn is particularly sensitive to PFOA-induced toxicity.”
“Taken together,” the report notes, “the weight of evidence for human studies supports the conclusion that PFOA exposure is a human health hazard.” The exact phrasing was used in the PFOS report as well.
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