EPA Orders: Monitor C8 in Drinking Water

B. Palmer
April 17, 2013 — 1,683 views  
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The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards that, when combined with protecting ground water and surface water, are critical to ensuring safe drinking water. The EPA also works with many partners to protect public health through implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act. National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs or primary standards) are legally enforceable standards that apply to public water systems. Primary standards protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water.

"Ensuring clean and safe drinking water for all Americans is a top priority for the EPA," said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Water. "Learning more about the prevalence of these contaminants will allow the EPA to better protect people's health." But even with these programs in place, not all chemicals are monitored regularly. As stated in the Pomeroy Daily Sentinel, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  is ordering the monitoring of public water supplies for a new list of chemicals, including C8. The agency has standards for 91 contaminants in drinking water, and the Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to identify up to 30 additional unregulated contaminants for monitoring every five years. Last week, the EPA released a list of 28 chemicals and two viruses to be monitored by about 6,000 public water systems as part of the unregulated contaminant monitoring program.

"The monitoring that will take place will provide EPA with invaluable information about what municipalities are seeing in their drinking water all across the country," said EPA acting assistant administrator for Water Nancy Stoner. "The results of this multi-year monitoring effort will help inform EPA's work to ensure Americans receive safe drinking water." This effort comes with a cost, however. The cost, though, reflects the importance of monitoring C8 in drinking water in order to protect public health and the unregulated contaminant monitoring program. According to the aforementioned article, "the EPA will spend more than $20 million to support the project, which will provide a clearer picture of the frequency and levels at which these contaminants are found in drinking water systems nationwide. It will also help regulators determine whether additional protections are needed to ensure safe drinking water."

There is even a law suit taking place on the subject based on the presence of the manufacturing substance. To resolve the suit, the court appointed the C8 Science Panel – a group of three epidemiologists – to determine if it was "more likely than not" that exposure could be linked to disease. The DuPont company has agreed to pay $8.3 million to install water filters in nearly 5,000 southern New Jersey homes whose tap water is polluted with the toxic industrial chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8. Children living near DuPont's plant in West Virginia are exposed to much higher concentrations of an industrial chemical than their mothers, according to a newly published study. Children under 5, who are exposed from drinking water as well as their mothers' breast milk, had 44 percent more of the chemical in their blood than their mothers. The study was also undertaken by the court-approved panel of three scientists who have spent seven years trying to determine whether the DuPont chemical is making people sick in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

In December, the science panel released their initial set of probable link findings and announced a link between C8 exposure and pregnancy induced hypertension. Last month, the panel linked C8 to kidney and testicular cancer. The panel was unable to find any link between exposure to ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as PFOA or C8, and 19 other cancers, including thyroid cancer or melanoma, "for which limited but insufficient evidence to support an association was found." The epidemiologists that make up the three-member panel also found no link between C8 exposure and adult onset Type II diabetes.

Their final reports are expected before the end of July. A different source supports these reports and states that evidence is mounting about the chemical's dangerous effects. Recent studies have "linked C8 exposure to high cholesterol, high levels of body chemicals linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, birth defects, high blood pressure and delayed puberty."

C8, or perfluorooctanoate, is a synthetic, stable perfluorinated carboxylic acid  and fluorosurfactant. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gor-Tex. The chemical C8 is a member of a family of synthetic industrial substances called perfluorochemicals, which do not break down in the environment and which pollute drinking water and source water in at least 11 states, according to limited investigations by state water agencies, academic scientists, businesses and journalists. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion range, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations.

While there is no "legally enforceable federal standard" for the level of PFOA in drinking water in the US, on January 15, 2009, the EPA set a "provisional health advisory." While water companies are not required to test for PFOA, it is a potential candidate for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as mentioned above. As for consumer products, there is no federal safety standard for PFOA in the US. PFOA is a carcinogen, liver toxicant, a developmental toxicant, an immune system toxicant, and also exerts hormonal effects including alteration of thyroid hormonal levels. The Environmental Working Group has a wealth of information on C8. C8 has been widely found in people and the environment, due to unregulated industrial discharges and leaching from consumer goods and landfills. Environmental Working Group has campaigned for eight years to restrict perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a likely human carcinogen, endocrine-disrupting chemical and reproductive toxin that for 50 years. From their website, "EPA's decision to test for C8 in water supplies nationwide is a step in the right direction," Naidenko said. "We cannot afford to delay protecting Americans from this dangerous chemical any longer."

Water fileters and home drinking water systems are beneficial to the removal of this chemical as well as many other contaminants which could have serious health effects in humans with large enough consumptions. Because there are still many chemicals and contaminants out there, some naturally-occurring and some environmental, residents are encouraged to take action and filter our chemicals in this very eco-friendly and affordable manner. Home drinking water systems like reverse osmosis are effective ways to remove harmful contaminants, known and unknown, direction from the tap. $8.3 million is a huge amount of money to install water filters in nearly 5,000 southern New Jersey homes whose tap water is polluted with the toxic industrial chemical. That cost only includes the homes who were directly affected by the manufacturing substance. But with homes affected in 11 states, homeowners are forced to take matters in their own hands, as funding will not be included there too.

The EPA welcomes the help of citizens all over the country. Since monitoring is not done on every chemical or contaminant in every area of the country, the EPA encourages all citizens to learn about their water resources and supports volunteer monitoring because of its many benefits. Volunteer water monitors build community awareness of pollution problems, help identify and restore problem sites, become advocates for their watersheds and increase the amount of needed water quality information available on our waters. Across the country, trained volunteers are monitoring the condition of their local streams, lakes, estuaries and wetlands. Water treatment companies are also good partners to assist in water quality monitoring.


B. Palmer

B. Palmer writes for Rayne of Fullerton in Fullerton, CA. Rayne water treatment systems are WQA Gold Seal Certified for quality and performance.