Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and harmful algal blooms (HABs) are two priority contaminants that states struggle to communicate the risks of. Most state environmental and health agencies have oversight of their water systems, and are responsible for implementing mitigation measures to reduce chemical exposure, protect public health, and communicate risks associated with contaminated water. Although the U.S. EPA issued a drinking water health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for two PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS), and draft recreational/swimming guideline values for cyanotoxins, states still issue their own health advisories and/or regulations related to these contaminants, compounding efforts to streamline communications and help the public understand risks. As state environmental and health regulators consider actions on contaminants, it’s important to frame the subject in a unified manner for the public and other stakeholders.
To help states overcome these communication challenges, ECOS and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) interviewed environmental and health agency staff from 13 states about how they frame their risk communications. We compiled the results into case studies that outline the background of the contamination in the state, development of guidance values and health advisories, rollout of advisories and relevant information, key messages for the public, and challenges and gaps.
The final products are below. For more information on risk communication, see ERIS’ webpage.
PFAS Case Studies
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
- New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
- Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Minnesota Department of Health
- New York State Department of Health
HABs Case Studies
- Missouri Department of Natural Resources/Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
- North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
- Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
- Utah Department of Environmental Quality