December 15, 2017

PFAS Contamination Remains a Hot-Button Issue: Overview of Recent Regulatory, Litigation, and Technical Developments

Matthew Thurlow, Russ Abell, and Stephen Zemba

Following the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) release of new drinking water health advisory standards for PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8) in the spring of 2016,2 there has been a surge in state regulation of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and litigation. PFAS have emerged as a contaminant of concern at scores of sites across the country, and there has been renewed focus on regulating the chemicals and litigating their cleanup by EPA, states, municipal water providers, and plaintiffs’ attorneys. But there appears to be little new scientific support that justifies newfound concern regarding this class of chemicals. Indeed, some of the new data appear to indicate that PFAS pose a lower risk to human health and the environment than previously believed. Regulators have long known about PFAS and their unique properties—which can result in their dispersion at low concentrations into the environment, slow degradation, and absorption and residence in the human body.

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