MADISON - The federal government on Wednesday released a host of
new recommended health limits for "forever chemicals," with
numbers drastically lower than standards Wisconsin passed this
In its announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency invited
states and territories to apply for the $1 billion in funding
made available to address PFAS by the Bipartisan Infrastructure
package passed earlier this year.
The new interim standards are 0.004 parts per trillion for PFOA,
0.02 parts per trillion for PFOS, 10 ppt for GenX chemicals and
2,000 ppt for PFBS.
PFOA and PFOS are two of the most well-researched and well-known
compounds in the PFAS family. GenX chemicals were created
following the phase-out of PFOS and PFOA.
By contrast, Wisconsin is set to implement standards for
drinking water set at 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS.
Those limits matched the federal guidance put in place in 2016.
The new federal recommendations for PFOA and PFOS were created
based on human studies in populations exposed to the compounds,
according to a news release from the agency.
"Human studies have found associations between PFOA and/or PFOS
exposure and effects on the immune system, the cardiovascular
system, human development, and cancer," the release said.
The recommendations for the other two compounds were based on
The new recommended standards aren't binding laws, meaning the
EPA can't enforce them. The standards are meant to provide
information to state agencies and other public health officials
about health impacts, analytical methods and treatment
technologies associated with PFAS contamination, according to a
release by the agency.
PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a family of
man-made chemicals used for their water- and stain-resistant
qualities in products like clothing and carpet, nonstick
cookware, packaging and firefighting foam. The family includes
5,000 compounds, which are persistent, remaining both in the
environment and the human body over time.
The chemicals have been linked to types of kidney and testicular
cancers, lower birth weights, harm to immune and reproductive
systems, altered hormone regulation and altered thyroid
hormones. The chemicals enter the human body largely through
The compounds have been found in a number of Wisconsin
communities over the last several years, including Marinette,
Peshtigo, Wausau, Eau Claire, Milwaukee, Madison and Mosinee.
The new federal recommendations leave a wide gap with the
state's standards for how much contamination is acceptable for
drinking water in the state.
Lawmakers Wednesday let the standard of 70 parts per trillion
for drinking water stand, and the rules could go into effect as
early as mid-July, with testing of large public water systems
being required starting as early as November.
But it remains to be seen if policymakers will go back to the
drawing board to create new standards that look more like the