The Environmental Protection Agency this week laid out how it plans to address PFAS. Exposure to these toxic, human-made chemicals has been linked to cancer, problems with the immune system, and developmental issues in children.
PFAS have been found in everything from carpets, to fast food wrappers, to firefighting foams on military bases — like Grissom Air Reserve Base near Kokomo.
EPA plans include limiting two kinds of PFAS in drinking water and designating some as hazardous substances. They also want companies to help research the toxicity of PFAS.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the roadmap in his former home state of North Carolina where a chemical company called Chemours polluted drinking water wells.
“And yet they remained silent while the profits went up. All the time there had been no one keeping Chemours accountable," he said.
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The EPA plan also calls for reviewing past decisions to allow new PFAS on the market and closing loopholes that would allow industry to use older, less regulated PFAS chemicals.
But it's not the quick, sweeping plan some researchers and environmental groups were hoping for. Marta Venier is an associate professor at Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and researches PFAS.
“We've been dealing with PFAS for — I don't know — 20 years or more, and so it's a welcome step to have the roadmap. At the same time, I would have liked to see some of these steps earlier,” she said.
Though the plan came out this week, rule-making could take years. Venier said there is enough scientific evidence to improve drinking water standards now. The plan also only addresses a handful of the thousands of PFAS chemicals on the market.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.