Biden's Woke Water Will Deny Americans 'Forever Chemicals' Their Bodies Crave
1953 Dupont ad for Orlon Easter outfits. Ad via James Vaughan, Creative Commons license 2.0.

The Environmental Protection Agency this week proposed standards to remove six cancer-causing chemicals from Americans' drinking water, finally taking action against a class of "forever chemicals" that are already in virtually everyone's blood, including the blood of newborn babies; thanks for that thought, New York Times.

We can hardly wait for the nice crazies at Fox News to declare that means the woke EPA is trying to deprive children of the chemical waste that has been their birthright for decades.

The chemicals, known generally as PFAS (for "per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances"), don't break down over time and have been used for a wide range of products including nonstick coatings for cookware, fire-suppressing foam, waterproofing for fabrics, and stain-resistant carpeting. They're really nice for our convenient modern life, but less so for our bodies; they've been linked to infertility, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid problems, and immune system disorders, among other health problems.

Why yes, the chemical industry also knew back in the 1970s that the stuff was getting into our bloodstreams, but they kept making the stuff and dumping it into the environment without calling attention to the possible risks. That wasn't their department.

The shit's everywhere, but at the very least we can keep it out of our drinking water.

Grist explains why the wokesters in Joe Biden's EPA are finally taking action now:

The proposed limits would cap two common types of PFAS contamination — the chemicals PFOA and PFOS — in drinking water at just 4 parts per trillion. That’s a significant reduction from the level the EPA suggested was safe as recently as 2016, when the agency put out a health advisory that suggested 70 parts per trillion as a maximum level for those types of PFAS in drinking water. This week’s announcement signals that federal regulators’ understanding of the health impacts of exposure to these chemicals is rapidly evolving and that the EPA now appears to believe that virtually no quantity of the chemicals is safe for human consumption.

Axios, citing the US Navy, helpfully explains that a "part per trillion" works out to one drop of nasty stuff in 21 million gallons of water.

In addition to PFOA and PFOS, which are no longer manufactured but are still ubiquitous because of the whole "never breaks down" thing we mentioned, the proposed regulations will also apply to four other compounds — GenX, PFBS, PFHxS and PFNA —that are still in use. As Politico explains, the regulation will require community water agencies to monitor local water supplies for the chemicals, after which they'll

plug those results into a “hazard index” calculation. That calculation is aimed at dealing with the fact that different types of PFAS are often present in water at the same time, and scientists have found that those mixtures can be even more dangerous than just the sum of their parts.

Using that hazard index, utilities would see whether dangerous combined levels of the chemicals are present, which would require them to treat their water to reduce levels of those chemicals or switch to alternate sources.

All of this is going to be expensive; the EPA estimates that the cost of treating water for PFAS nationwide will come to $772 million annually, with annual savings of $1.2 billion from lower healthcare costs and fewer early deaths. We gotta say, we looked at that and wondered how anything this significant could cost only hundreds of millions a year, but that's what it says. Politico points out that the drinking water plant for Wilmington, North Carolina, where EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the proposed regulations,

spent $43 million on upgrades to its water treatment facilities to filter out PFAS that a chemical manufacturing plant had poured into the Cape Fear River. The plant’s managers estimate it will cost up to $5 million more annually to operate the system, adding an average of $5 per month to customers’ bills.

In a statement, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies suggested EPA is low-balling its cost calculations, arguing that if just 16 drinking water utilities had to install upgrades similar to Wilmington’s, the cost would exceed the agency’s cost estimate.

To help offset some of the costs, the EPA has $5 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that it can use to help small and economically disadvantaged communities with upgrades to drinking water plants. Regan noted, "We recognize that’s not enough for every single water utility in the country, but it’s a shot in the arm."

In addition, some of the costs of upgrades may be recouped from the polluters that spread PFAS all over in the first place. The EPA last year

"proposed designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous under the Superfund law," and the agency is exploring doing the same for other types of PFAS. That would allow EPA and other entities to force those responsible for the pollution to pay to clean it up.

The problem there is that Superfund can take years to get settlements from polluters, while the plant upgrades will need to start toot sweet once the rule is finalized. Oh yes, and about that, Politico adds, "The Defense Department, which faces potentially massive cleanup costs for its decades of contamination at more than 700 sites across the country, has stalled and weakened previous EPA efforts on PFAS."

Now all we need is for representatives of the chemical industry to convince rightwing media that since we're all already pumped full of PFAS, the regulations really mean that Biden isn't simply out to clean up our water. Maybe he'll declare all Americans Superfund sites and take us to camps to have our blood cleaned out and replaced with soy milk!

[EPA / Grist / NYT / Axios / Politico / Image: Remix of Dupont ad originally posted by James Vaughan, Creative Commons License 2.0.

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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