Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Significant US PFAS decision: zero drinking water limitations to save 100 million people in the coming years. Italy and Europe watch.

By nr39r Apr16,2024

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it has set very low limits for the presence in drinking water of six molecules from

the PFAS group (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances), the substances used in industry which, called “forever chemicals” are associated with numerous health problems due to their long persistence in the environment . For the two molecules linked to forms of cancer (PFOA, a human carcinogen and PFOS, a possible carcinogen) the limit set by the EPA is equal to technical zero .

With this measure, the US agency predicts that in the coming years the exposure of approximately one hundred million people to PFAS in drinking water will be avoided , preventing thousands of deaths attributable to these substances. The European Union and Italy, however, lag behind.

“Yet the Veneto is the scene of one of the largest cases of PFAS contamination in the world and Greenpeace Italia has demonstrated the presence of these substances also in the waterways of Tuscany and in the drinking water of several municipalities in Lombardy and Piedmont , a concentrations which, as of today, in the United States are considered dangerous for human health ,” denounces Giuseppe Ungherese , the head of Greenpeace Italia’s Pollution campaign . he strategic plan made in the USA – The EPA has established very low limits, as well as for Pfos and Pfoa, also for Pfhxs, Pfna and Hfpo-da, otherwise known as GenX Chemicals, but also a limit for mixtures of two or more of the latter three Pfas, as well as Pfbs , which over the years industries have begun to use to replace Pfos for many applications.

This measure is part of the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The Biden administration is investing nine billion dollars , the highest sum ever made available on the eternal pollutants front. They will be used to enable communities to cope with drinking water pollution situations from PFAS and other emerging contaminants. To these resources, we must add the 12 billion dollars allocated to improve the quality of drinking water in general, an objective which includes the fight against PFAS, including the latest generation. “PFAS-contaminated drinking water has plagued communities across this country for too long.

That’s why President Biden has made fighting PFAS a top priority , investing historic resources to address these harmful chemicals and protect communities nationwide,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. What’s happening in Europe – In the meantime, the measures taken by the European Union are of a completely different nature. If the packaging regulation currently being approved provides for a ban on PFAS in contact with food (in the USA companies have recently followed up on an agreement to stop its use), in recent days the Brussels Parliament has confirmed the political agreement with governments to review the rules on water management and wastewater treatment in cities. The presence of chemical pollutants in water, including PFAS, will be ” rigorously monitored “, but there is no specific obligation .

At the moment the production ban only concerns some of these substances, namely Pfos and Pfoa. For all the others (around 14 thousand according to the Environmental Protection Agency and six million according to PubChem) there are thresholds, set at European level in 2006, and considered insufficient to protect health. In February 2023, five European countries (Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway) presented a proposal to revise the Reach Regulationto Echa, the European Agency that deals with the regulation of chemical substances produced and placed on the market.of 2006 for the ban.

In 2020, Europe then adopted a directive (implemented in Italy in 2023) which will only come into force in 2026: the limit for the presence of PFAS in water will be one hundred nanograms per liter for the sum of twenty PFAS (24 in Italy), and five hundred nanograms for all Pfas (the over 10 thousand). Countries taking steps forward – In fact, however, some countries have already imposed limits even fifty times lower than those of the directive. Denmark has set a limit for the sum of four substances (Pfoa, Pfos, Pfna and Pfhxs) equal to two nanograms per liter and has banned their use in food containers. Sweden, the Netherlands and the Belgian region of Flanders also move in the same direction as regards the presence of Pfas in waters. Last April 4, France decided to ban the production and sale of non-essential products containing Pfas.

The bill proposed by environmentalist MP Nicholas Thierry was approved in Parliament with 187 votes in favor (from multiple political parties) and five against. From January 1, 2026, PFAS will be banned in cosmetics , wax and the production of clothing , except those for professional protection. The notice excludes pots and other kitchen utensils for now. In Italy the limits do not guarantee safety – In Italy, however, there are no measures of this type on the horizon.

The Ministry of Health has set the maximum value in water intended for human consumption at five hundred nanograms per liter for PFOA and three hundred for PFOS. Despite the Italian cases of contamination, primarily that of Veneto. “In Italy, PFAS pollution is an out-of-control national emergency , especially due to the lack of measures that limit the use and production of these substances to protect the environment and health. The Meloni government should follow the example of the United States and immediately adopt a national law that prohibits the use and production of these dangerous molecules”, comments Ungherese of Greenpeace.

By nr39r

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