Biden admin cracks down on ‘forever chemicals’ in water

By Miranda Willson | 04/10/2024 05:00 AM EDT

EPA Administrator Michael Regan touted the rule as a major step for protecting public health nationwide.

A glass of drinking water.

A person holding a glass of water. EPA released a new rule to limit PFAS presence in water. Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

The Biden administration on Wednesday set the first-ever federal limits on “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a key step toward protecting Americans from the substances that are linked to serious human health issues.

The sweeping new regulation requires public water systems to reduce levels of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which have been found in the tap water of tens of millions of Americans. It’s the first new EPA drinking water standard issued since the 1990s.

“Drinking water contaminated with PFAS has plagued communities across this country for too long,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “That is why President Biden has made tackling PFAS a top priority, investing historic resources to address these harmful chemicals and protect communities nationwide.”


Prized for their resistance to heat, oil and water, PFAS have been used in firefighting foam, cookware and food packaging and are extremely slow to break down in the environment and the human body. Exposure to the chemicals can increase risks of kidney disease, cancer and reproductive health problems, according to scientific studies.

Similar to EPA’s proposed rule last year, the final version sets a cap of 4 parts per trillion for two widely studied and toxic PFAS known as PFOA and PFOS. It also sets a limit for a mixture of two or more of the following substances: PFNA; PFHxS; PFBS; and HFPO-DA, also known by its trade name GenX. In addition, water systems would need to reduce concentrations of PFNA, PFHxS and GenX to no more than 10 parts per trillion.

The regulation will prevent thousands of deaths and help reduce cancer rates, administration officials said. But it is almost certain to face legal challenges and could come at a steep price for water providers across the U.S. Utilities will have five years to come into compliance with the new limits.