The US imposes a historic measure against the contamination of drinking water, what is it about?

Joe Biden's government on Wednesday established strict limits on the presence of some persistent chemicals in the drinking waterwhich will force supply companies to reduce them to the lowest level that can be measured reliably. That will reduce exposure to these substances for 100 million people and help prevent thousands of diseases such as some forms of cancer, according to authorities.

This is the first standard that imposes a national limit on the presence of substances in drinking water. perfluoroalkylated and polyfluoroalkylated (PFAS), whose use is widespread and which remain in the environment for a long time.

Supply companies put 'buts' and warn of an increase in prices

Health activists praised the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not making concessions on limits proposed last year. However, water companies raised objections, saying water treatment systems are expensive to install and customers will end up paying more for water.

Water companies are entering a new era with a considerable increase in health standards, which the EPA says will make tap water safer for millions of consumers, one of the priorities of the Biden administration. The agency has also proposed forcing companies to remove dangerous lead pipes.

Utility groups warn that the rules will cost tens of billions of dollars and will hit small communities with fewer resources the hardest. Legal battles are expected to ensue.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the rule is the most significant action the agency has ever taken on PFAS.

“The result is a profound and transcendental norm that will improve the health and vitality of many communities in our country,” he stated.

What are PFAS substances and why do they pose a risk?

The PFAS are dangerous because they do not degrade in the environment and are associated with health problems such as low birth weight and kidney cancer. They are used in everyday products such as non-stick pans, fire extinguisher foam, and water-repellent clothing. Although some of the most common types are being gradually phased out in the United States, others remain in use. Now water companies will be forced to remove the pollution that other industries have emitted into the environment.

“The problem is accumulation”said Scott Belcher, a professor at North Carolina State University who researches the toxicity of PFAS. “Even tiny, tiny amounts every time you drink water throughout your life are going to add up, leading to health effects.”

PFAS are a large family of chemicals, and the new rule sets strict limits of 4 parts per trillion on two common varieties, called PFOA and PFOS. Three other types including GenX — a trademark — that are a serious problem in North Carolina are limited to 10 parts per trillion. Companies will have to test for these substances and inform the public when levels are too high.. Combinations of some types of PFAS will also be limited.

Toxic substances in water exceed new limits

Environmental and health activists praised the rule but said PFAS makers knew for decades that the substances were dangerous but hid or downplayed evidence. The limits should have been introduced sooner, they say.

“Reducing PFAS in our drinking water is the most cost-effective way to reduce our exposure,” said Scott Faber, food and water expert at the Environmental Working Group. “It is much more difficult to reduce other exposures such as PFAS in food, clothing or carpets.”

In the last year, the EPA has published successive rounds of testing results. testing for PFAS in tap water. About 16 percent of water companies found that at least one of the most restricted products was at or above the limit. These companies serve tens of millions of people. However, the Biden administration estimates that 6 to 10 percent of water systems exceed new limits.

In general, companies will have three years to carry out analysis. If the limits are exceeded, they will have two more years to install water treatment systems, according to EPA officials.