EPA designates forever chemicals as hazardous materials | WORLD
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EPA designates forever chemicals as hazardous materials

A scientist pours PFAS-filled water into a container for research. Associated Press/Photo by Joshua A. Bickel

EPA designates forever chemicals as hazardous materials

The Biden administration on Friday designated the manmade chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS, as hazardous substances. They will now be subject to stricter regulations regarding their transfer, release, and storage, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement. The two substances are part of a group of synthetic, potentially harmful chemicals known as PFAS.

What are PFAS? The chemicals appear in many commercial and consumer products, according to an EPA information sheet. The chemicals could be in drinking water, food, and fire extinguisher foam. They can last for thousands of years before breaking down, according to the advocacy organization Clean Water Action.

Why is the EPA designating these as hazardous substances? Researchers have allegedly linked the chemicals to cancers and other health issues, according to a news release from the EPA. The National Cancer Institute has reported that some cancers appear more frequently in populations with more exposure to forever chemicals like the EPA’s Friday designation targets—PFOA and PFOS. But Cancer Research UK has said that while the scientists have classified PFOA as carcinogenic, no convincing evidence suggests that PFOS causes cancer in humans.

Does anyone oppose this designation? A group of drinking water and wastewater organizations was disappointed with the EPA’s Friday designation. According to the group, which calls itself the Coalition Against PFAS, the designation allows entities to skirt responsibility for polluting the environment. The designation could burden public water systems with litigation over the presence of PFAS and increase costs for taxpayers.

Dig deeper: Read Heather Frank’s report in WORLD Magazine about how a certain microbe might help fight cancer.

Josh Schumacher

Josh is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. He’s a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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