The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would begin to require utilities to remove PFAS, or "forever chemicals," from drinking water across the nation.

PFAS are a group of industrial chemicals found in everything from toilet paper to dental floss that has a pervasive way of lingering in the human body and environment, where studies show they can cause significant health issues.

At the moment only a proposal, if finalized the rule would become the first intervention by the federal government to limit the national intake of chemicals labeled as PFAS. Some studies indicate as many as 200 million Americans are exposed to tap water containing PFAs.

Although there are thousands of PFAS chemicals, the EPA seeks water systems to monitor for six specific compounds, notify the public about PFAS levels in their locality and work to reduce them if levels go above the permitted standard.

"EPA's proposal to establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science, and would help provide states with the guidance they need to make decisions that best protect their communities," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. "This action has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants."

Exposure to the chemicals, particularly the ones banned, has been linked to cancer, liver damage, fertility and thyroid problems, asthma and other health effects. Last year the EPA found the chemicals could cause harm at levels "much lower than previously understood" and that almost no level of exposure was safe.

The new proposal would limit perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid, the two most widely used PFAS, at 4 parts per trillion in drinking water. The limit sets the allowable levels for these chemicals so low that they are no longer detectable.

Studies show limiting the levels of PFAS across the country would cost municipalities millions, as new infrastructure would need to be built and maintenance would be incurred. The EPA will accept public comments on the proposed regulation for 60 days before it will take effect.