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Mass. Sets New Limits On Toxic PFAS Chemicals

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has released new draft regulations to limit toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water supplies. The regulations will set the combined limit for six PFAS chemicals at 20 parts per trillion.

"Based on what we know, we believe these six are the right six," said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. "We obviously will continue to engage with the scientific community and others to make sure that we have the most up-to-date information, and we'll continue to use that information as we develop the rule."

The regulations will open for public comment on Dec. 27, and likely go into effect in 2020, Suuberg said.

There are currently no federal standards for PFAS in drinking water, but federal guidelines set a combined limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA, the two most common PFAS chemicals.

"We think ultimately the science will show that the standards should be even tighter, but this will certainly improve the protection of public health, and it opens a process to insure that all these toxic chemicals can be out of our drinking water," said Brad Campbell, president of the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). The CLF and the nonprofit Toxics Action Center originally filed the joint petition that initiated the process to set state standards for PFAS chemicals.

"The DEP rule set standards for six of these compounds but there are dozens more that need to be addressed," he said.

There are around 4,700 types of PFAS chemicals, which have been in consumer products for decades, and can leach into drinking water from places like landfills, manufacturing facilities, and military bases. Scientific studies have linked PFAS exposure to elevated cholesterol, thyroid disease, damage to the liver and kidneys, effects on fertility and low birth weight. Research also suggests that exposure to PFAS chemicals might suppress the immune systems of young children, potentially making vaccines less effective.

The Baker Administration also announced tougher cleanup standards for PFAS chemicals in soil and groundwater. The standards will require that parties responsible for contamination clean any groundwater that could be used as drinking water to 20 parts per trillion for the sum of six PFAS compounds.

This article was originally published on December 13, 2019.

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Barbara Moran Twitter Senior Producing Editor, Environment
Barbara Moran is the senior producing editor for WBUR’s environmental vertical.

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