tap water
In 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to address possible health hazards posed by PFASs by developing a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for drinking water and enabling cleanup efforts. This is a representational image showing people drinking water from a six spigot water fountain in New York City, July 7, 2010. Getty Images/Mario Tama

With growing concerns about polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, commonly called PFASs, contamination in drinking water in several states, a new report claimed Monday that the chemicals will remain unregulated. According to Politico, the Trump administration will not set a drinking water limit for the two toxic chemicals that have been found to contaminate millions of Americans' tap water.

The latest news comes a month after Andrew Wheeler, acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in his confirmation hearing that the EPA would announce plans soon to address the widespread contamination with the compounds PFOA and PFOS. The vote on Wheeler’s appointment is scheduled for Feb. 5.

However, on Monday, Politico cited sources telling the media outlet that Wheeler will not move to regulate any of the PFAS family of chemicals by setting a legal limit under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

“If these sources are right, the EPA is essentially telling the more than 110 million Americans whose water is likely contaminated with PFAS: ‘Drink up, folks,'” David Andrews, Ph.D, a senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, reportedly said. “The most efficient and equitable way to remove these chemicals from the nation’s drinking water supply is to use the agency’s authority to set legal limits... It’s a national problem, and it needs a national solution. Anything short of that is window dressing.”

PFOA and PFOS are the best-known members of the family of highly fluorinated compounds known as PFAS. Over time, exposure to these can be linked to kidney cancer, thyroid problems, high cholesterol and other alarming medical conditions.

After the Politico report was published, Democratic Senator for New Hampshire Maggie Hassan said such a move, if it happens, would be "unacceptable."

In 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to address possible health hazards posed by PFASs by developing a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for drinking water and enabling cleanup efforts.

In June, after much delay, the Trump administration released a report on toxic water contamination. The 852-page scientific draft assessment of PFAS chemicals, posted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, detailed how people were exposed to the chemicals and the health risks it posed. From infants to breastfeeding mothers to adult males, almost everyone is at risk. The chemicals were found to be contaminating water systems around the country.

With no limit being set on the use of PFAS, utilities will face no federal requirements for testing for and removing the chemicals from drinking water supplies. However, several states have pursued or are pursuing their own limits.

At least 1.5 million Michigan residents reportedly have PFAS in their drinking water. Across the United States, an estimated 110 million Americans are drinking water containing PFAS. The chemicals have been used for decades in products such as Teflon-coated cookware and military firefighting foam.

There are several ways in which one can be exposed to PFAS:

1. Public water systems and drinking water wells, soil, and outdoor air near industrial areas with frequent PFAS manufacture, disposal, or use

2. Surface water or groundwater receiving run-off or seepage from areas where firefighting foam was often used

3. Fish from contaminated bodies of water

4. Food items sold in the marketplace

5. Food packaging

The Rhode Island Department of Health recommends the following steps if concerning levels of PFAS were detected in drinking water:

1. Do not boil drinking water as it will concentrate these chemicals.

2. Reduce risk of exposure to these chemicals by using bottled water or other licensed drinking water that has been tested for these chemicals.

3. Water from a safe source should be used for drinking, food preparation, cooking, brushing teeth, and any other activity that might result in swallowing water.

4. Parents who feed their child with formula must use the supplement which does not require adding water.