The state of Ohio will test about 1,500 public water systems for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, better known as “forever chemicals.”
The man-made chemicals, which have been used for years in nonstick cookware and to waterproof fabrics, don’t break down, earning them the name forever chemicals.
The testing of both raw and treated water samples, which will take place throughout 2020, is expected to cover water supplies used by about 90% of the state’s population.
“We must fully evaluate the prevalence of PFAS in Ohio’s drinking water to protect public health and the state’s natural resources,” said Governor Mike DeWine in an emailed statement. “This plan is the first step in learning if the chemicals have a widespread presence.”
DeWine ordered the state Department of Health and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to come up with an action plan for testing.
The six-page plan was released Monday. Ohio EPA will be responsible for testing while the Department of Health will work to provide resources to communities via county health departments on how to reduce exposure for those with private water systems.
There are no national regulations restricting the amount of PFAS in water supplies. The U.S. EPA has set an advisory of 70 parts per trillion for two types of PFAS: PFOA and PFOS. The state follows that advisory, according to the plan.
Environmental advocates say those levels should be much lower to prevent negative health effects. Some states have passed stricter guidelines.
“We are disappointed that the state will not be moving forward with a drinking water standard for any of the chemicals within the PFAS family, rather using a U.S. EPA overall lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion as a benchmark for action in drinking water,” said Kristy Meyer, associate director of Freshwater Future, a nonprofit working to safeguard healthy water in the Great Lakes region. “Many other states … are developing their own drinking water standards in the absence of federal standards.”
The two most widely tested chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, increase the risk of cancer, lower fertility in women, interfere with hormones, increase cholesterol levels, and negatively affect the immune system and hinder development in infants and children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The science is still evolving regarding PFAS chemicals, but we know that certain people like unborn babies, infants and children are at higher risk for negative health effects if exposed to them,” said Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton in a released statement.
The state has set up a website about the testing and chemicals which can be found at https://epa.ohio.gov/pfas. The water results will be updated on the site.