People consume the chemical after it leaks into the ground water or is released into the air. Two of the biggest polluters are the Department of Defense and the companies that manufacture the chemical, including Chemours, 3M and Dupont.
But people also ingest PFAS through consumer products. The compound makes products long-lasting, waterproof or greaseproof, and is found in food packaging like pizza boxes, as well as nonstick pans, waterproof clothes and shoes, and stain resistant carpets. A recent study found that half of cosmetics products contain PFAS.
Scott Faber, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said chemical companies “have understood the risks of these chemicals since the 1950s.”
Previous administrations have also known about the dangers of PFAS but only preliminary action was taken. The EPA began monitoring water near contaminated sites less than a decade ago but has done little to remedy the problem.
“They have eluded regulation but that ends right now,” Regan said. “This administration is taking action.”
The EPA regulates 90 contaminates in drinking water but not PFAS. The EPA is now creating a plan to implement new national drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, two classes of PFAS, by the fall of 2023.
The EPA is also creating rules to stop companies from dumping PFAS into waterways, launching a national testing strategy, publishing toxicity assessments of PFAS chemicals and studying PFAS in fish.
The U.S. Navy told NBC News that it has plans to ban PFAS from its firefighting foam by Oct. 1, 2023, as directed by Congress.
What the government isn’t doing is an outright ban, which Europe has done for many PFAS chemicals.
“What we have to do is move very strategically through the regulatory process, and we’re going to do that in an expedited timeline,” Regan said.
The American Chemistry Council, the lobby group that represents the chemical manufacturers, said in a statement that the industry supports “science-based” regulation of PFAS.
“But all PFAS are not the same, and they should not all be regulated the same way,” the statement said.
This month, California banned PFAS from being used in baby and toddler products.
At the former naval base in Warminster, the Department of Defense tested the water in 2016 and found 36,000 parts per trillion of PFAS, far above the 70 parts per trillion the EPA recommends as acceptable. The U.S. Navy said that it has started to filter the groundwater and has worked with the town to bring in water from other parts of the state that is not contaminated.
But for Grosse, it’s long overdue.
“I was very angry, extremely upset,” she said. “I want clean water for my grandchildren.”
Mosheh Gains contributed.
Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ are everywhere. The EPA has a new plan to crack down. is written by Leigh Ann Caldwell and Frank Thorp V and Mosheh Gains for www.nbcnews.com