Recent US State and Federal Drinking Water Guidelines for Per- And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

By Gloria B Post
Environ. Toxicol. Chem.
September 7, 2020
DOI: 10.1002/etc.4863

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of synthetic chemicals produced for over 70 years, are of increasing concern because of their widespread environmental presence, extreme persistence, bioaccumulative nature, and evidence for health effects from environmentally relevant exposures. In 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) established nonregulatory drinking water Health Advisories of 70 ng/L for individual and total concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), the 8-carbon perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) that are the most thoroughly studied PFAS. As of May 2020, 9 US states had concluded that the USEPA Health Advisories are insufficiently protective and developed more stringent PFOA and PFOS guidelines. In addition, 10 states had developed guidelines for other PFAS, primarily PFAAs. This Critical Review discusses the scientific basis for state and USEPA drinking water guidelines for PFOA and PFOS; the same principles apply to guidelines for other PFAS. Similarities and differences among guidelines arise from both toxicity and exposure considerations. The approximately 4-fold range among state guidelines (8-35 ng/L for PFOA, 10-40 ng/L for PFOS) is not large or unexpected for guidelines developed by different scientists at different time points, especially when compared with older USEPA and state guidelines that were generally several orders of magnitude higher. Additional state guidelines for PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS are expected to become available.

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