Environmental Law Update: The Forever Chemicals: New Concerns With Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

Over the last several years, you may have noticed the increasing frequency of news stories relating to a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS usage began in the manufacture of consumer products as early as the 1940s, and the first studies considered potential health effects associated with the PFAS family of chemicals in the 1970s. Because of their unique chemical makeup, many of the most concerning PFAS–namely, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)–do not break down in the environment, earning them a somewhat alarming nickname: the forever chemicals. For decades, however, PFAS and the associated issues received scant attention from the public or from regulators. This changed with increased media exposure only in the last three to four years. Now the federal government and over a dozen states have enacted specific groundwater standards or soil quality standards relating to PFAS or have developed action plans setting future regulation in motion. PFAS do not appear to be a passing fad.

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