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 for two PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS) in drinking water.
States have responded in different ways to EPA’s advisory; some are requesting further federal regulatory action and several 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, is working to develop a national strategy for addressing the health risks of PFAS contamination. As EPA develops and implements that strategy, ECOS is helping states communicate and coordinate with EPA 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
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 poly-fluoroalkyl 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. Other states and regulatory agencies have opted for non-enforceable values such as guidance levels, screening numbers, or advisories that may apply to PFAS compounds for which promulgated standards do not exist.
ECOS compiled information on state PFAS standards, advisories, and guidance values into this white paper to help 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 from 23 states on their processes, rulemaking requirements, and other considerations for establishing PFAS guidelines. See the paper here.
Updates as of September 2020:
- If your state has updated standards or would like to be included in the next update to this white paper (2021), 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.
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.