Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large family of synthetic chemicals used for a wide variety of purposes. In recent years, scientists have concluded that some of these substances can pose human health risks. In 2016, EPA issued a lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for two PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS) in drinking water. In 2022, the agency issued interim, updated drinking water health advisories of 0.004 ppt and 0.02 ppt for PFOA and PFOS, respectively, as well as final health advisories of 10 ppt for PFBS and 2,000 ppt for GenX chemicals.
States have responded in different ways to EPA’s advisories. Since 2016, some states requested further federal regulatory action and a number of them have taken regulatory action themselves. The increasingly complex landscape of federal and state activities is making it harder for each state to address its citizens’ concerns about PFAS risks. EPA, for its part, in 2021 developed a national strategy for addressing the health risks of PFAS contamination, and said it will propose a federally-enforceable regulation for PFOA and PFOS in Fall 2022. As EPA develops and implements its strategy, ECOS is helping states communicate and coordinate with EPA, other federal agencies, and each other about scientific and policy developments, newly-identified sources and exposure pathways, and best practices for investigation, corrective action, and public engagement.
ECOS White Paper: Processes and Considerations for Setting State PFAS Standards
Updated March 31, 2022
In recent years, federal, state, and international authorities have established various health-based regulatory values and evaluation criteria for a number of specific per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in response to growing concerns with contamination. At this time, the U.S. has no federally enforceable PFAS standards, leaving individual states to navigate various avenues for addressing PFAS contamination. Some states have established legally enforceable values for certain PFAS in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, soil, or other environmental media (e.g., drinking water Maximum Contaminant Levels [MCLs]). Other states and regulatory agencies have opted for non-enforceable values such as guidance levels, screening numbers, or advisories that may apply to PFAS for which promulgated standards do not exist.
The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) in 2019 compiled information on state PFAS standards, advisories, and guidance values. Sharing data and regulatory approaches helps federal, state, and international authorities avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts, as well as understand and communicate about differences in guidelines. This paper outlines ECOS’ findings on state efforts and considerations for future regulatory activities on PFAS. The document was initially published in February 2020 and updated in March/April 2021. This March 2022 update reflects the addition of three states and new regulatory and scientific activities that have occurred over the past year. ECOS will continue to update it annually as appropriate.
Notes as of March 2021:
- If your state has updated standards or would like to be included in the next update to this white paper (2022), please email Sarah Grace Longsworth of ECOS.
- U.S. EPA’s Office of Water’s Standards and Health Protection Division houses the Agency’s Fish Advisory program, which supports states in their formulation and issuance of fish consumption advisories. In September 2020, staff in that program and in the EPA Office of Research and Development compiled an updated list of state’s advisory thresholds since ECOS’s compilation in the appendices of this white paper. That listing can be found here. Much of this information has been incorporated into Appendix F of the updated ECOS PFAS standards white paper.
When ECOS updated its white paper in 2021, some states noted that they monitor for many more PFAS than are actually regulated, and that it would be helpful to get a sense for PFAS that other states monitor for. ECOS began compiling a spreadsheet, and will update it regularly as it receives information from states. Please email Sarah Grace Longsworth of ECOS to include your states’ PFAS monitoring lists.
PFAS Monitoring Spreadsheet – Updated April 15, 2022
PFAS Risk Communications Hub
In 2018, ECOS and ASTHO interviewed environmental and health agency staff from 13 states and developed case studies on their risk communication strategies and lessons learned for PFAS and HABs. Building upon lessons learned from this effort, ECOS and ASTHO in 2019 developed a clearinghouse of PFAS risk communication resources to help state environmental and health managers more easily collaborate and disseminate audience-appropriate information on chemicals of emerging concern.
Check out the case studies and other risk communication resources on the clearinghouse webpage on ERIS.