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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced February 20 that it would regulate two compounds found in drinking water after growing concerns emerged about the chemicals. The chemicals are part of a class called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. PFOA and PFOS are the two compounds newly under regulation.

The EPA will now begin a two-year review process to determine the maximum contamination levels. The chemicals are non-stick and stain-resistant compounds found in every state except Hawaii. The substances are found in everything from pizza boxes to carpets. PFAS are called “forever chemicals,” because they persist in the environment.

States had started setting their own water quality limits after the EPA only set a non-binding standard of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS. Health studies have found people exposed to the compounds experienced liver issues, low birth weights and testicular and kidney cancers.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement, “The U.S. leads the world in providing access to safe drinking water for its citizens, thanks in part to EPA’s implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Under President Trump’s leadership, EPA is following through on its commitment in the Action Plan to evaluate PFOA and PFOS under this Act.”

“It’s decades too late but it’s better late than never. It could still take years — if ever — for EPA to issue a final standard. But it’s a step in the right the direction, and it would not have happened but for a bipartisan sense of outrage,” said Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president for government affairs, in a statement.

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