Something’s in the water

Good news for tap water fans: the US and Canada are moving towards making drinking water free of toxic chemicals. 

What happened: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed national standards that would force public water systems to restrict and remove six PFAS chemicals (popularly known as forever chemicals due to their resistance to breaking down) in water.

  • PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in modern-day life and are used in products like  water repellants, cleaning products, and food packaging.

  • The regulations will set hard limits on the amount of PFOA and PFOS, two of the most pervasive PFAS chemicals, and set a combined limit on others.

While the move has received praise from environmental groups, critics have raised concerns about impossible-to-meet standards and the high costs of the PFAS removal process

In Canada: The government has also proposed its own objectives for limiting PFAS chemicals in drinking water, setting a target goal at 30 nanograms per litre (which is 7.5 times higher than each of the EPA’s proposed allowable limits for PFOA and PFOS). 

  • The guidelines are currently open for public consultation, with the government expecting to roll them out in the next few years.

  • The government claims that Canadian drinking water contains a “limited” amount of PFAS, and that amounts are generally already below the proposed limit.

Why it matters: Traces of PFAS chemicals are estimated to be in the blood of around 98.5% of Canadians, per a Health Canada study, which is concerning as they have been linked to a litany of health issues, including thyroid disease, liver damage, and even cancer

Bottom line: Concentrations of PFAS chemicals have dipped over time as manufacturers phase them out, but it’s probably still a good idea to ensure we’re not drinking them.