Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 17 attorneys general, issued comments supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to set enforceable drinking water standards for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS or “forever” chemicals. PFAS are a class of highly toxic and environmentally persistent chemicals that pose serious threats to public health and communities across Illinois.
“Forever chemicals – as their name implies – do not break down naturally in the environment, gradually building up in humans and animals and posing a significant threat to human health and the environment,” Raoul said. “I remain committed to protecting Illinoisans from the dangers of PFAS and urge the EPA to continue to prioritize the threat posed by these dangerous synthetic chemicals.”
Across the country, PFAS contamination is often found at military bases, firefighting training centers, civilian airports and industrial facilities. PFAS chemicals tend to be persistent in the environment and have been used for decades as ingredients in firefighting foam and consumer products. In Illinois, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) sampled finished water from community water supplies across the state and detected PFAS in 149 of those community water supplies. More specifically, the investigation detected levels of PFAS that were greater than or equal to the IEPA’s Health Advisory Levels at 68 entry points.
PFAS contaminants may be linked to serious adverse health effects in humans and animals, as epidemiologic studies have shown that potential adverse human health effects from exposure to some PFAS include increased serum cholesterol, immune dysregulation, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and kidney and testicular cancers. Exposure to certain types of PFAS is also associated with low birthweight in humans, suppressed immune system response, dyslipidemia, impaired kidney function and delayed onset of menstruation.
In their comment letter to the EPA, Raoul and the coalition express support for the EPA’s proposal to set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG) for six PFAS regularly found in drinking water, including PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, GenX, PFNA and PFBS. Raoul and the coalition support the EPA’s authority to set the PFAS drinking water standards, issue a preliminary determination and simultaneously propose MCLs and MCLGs for PFAS in drinking water. The coalition also supports the EPA’s proposed Hazard Index approach to regulating PFHxS, GenX, PFNA and PFBS individually and as a mixture.
While supportive of the proposed rule, Raoul and the coalition also urge the EPA to make technical and engineering resources available to public water systems, so that the financial burden of removing PFAS does not unfairly fall on ratepayers and customers. Some states with significant PFAS contamination are currently spending large amounts of money to address the contamination in public drinking water systems, and to investigate numerous areas and sources of potential contamination. The coalition also encouraged the EPA to finalize the drinking water standards quickly and to consider drinking water standards for other PFAS.
The letter is Raoul’s most recent effort to protect the public from PFAS. After Raoul called on the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to protect the public from the dangers of the toxic chemicals, the U.S. Department of Defense was recently provided additional tools to address PFAS. In January, Raoul filed a lawsuit against multiple companies that manufacture PFAS alleging the manufacturers have known for decades that PFAS are toxic and pose substantial health and environmental risks, yet continue to actively promote the chemicals as safe to manufacture and use. Raoul also filed a lawsuit in April against multiple companies that manufacture PFAS utilized in a fire suppressing foam that is used to extinguish flammable liquid fires from gasoline, oil, jet fuel and other chemicals at industrial facilities.
Joining Raoul in sending the comment letter are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.