For Immediate Release
Public Health Information
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NC Responds to Recent EPA Health Advisories Concerning PFAS
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released health advisory values for four PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances): GenX, PFOA, PFOS, and PFBS. Today’s EPA advisory is based on the best available science and considers a lifetime exposure to these PFAS compounds. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are moving quickly to evaluate the state’s drinking water supplies based on these health advisories and will determine the appropriate next steps in order to reduce any additional risks of exposure.
In conjunction with the DEQ Action Strategy for PFAS, DEQ will prioritize actions to protect communities based upon the number of people impacted, concentration of PFAS in the drinking water, and the impacts to vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. More information on each of the four PFAs can be found below:
Since 2017, North Carolina has taken decisive action to address GenX contamination, which originated from the Chemours Fayetteville Works Facility. For GenX, the EPA has set a final lifetime health advisory level of 10 parts per trillion (ppt), which would replace the state’s provisional drinking water health goal of 140 ppt developed by NCDHHS in 2018. The Consent Order requires Chemours to provide whole house filtration for private drinking water wells with GenX concentrations above a health advisory. The federal health advisory will now replace the state’s provisional drinking water health goal; while at the same time, DEQ now estimates that more than 1700 additional private well users will now be eligible for whole house filtration or connection to a public water supply. DEQ is directing Chemours to proceed with the implementation of the health advisory, and additional information will be provided to residents about their options and what next steps to take as soon as possible.
PFOA and PFOS
While GenX contamination is specific to the Cape Fear River Basin in North Carolina, PFOS and PFOA were commonly used nationwide for decades in a variety of consumer goods and industrial processes. PFOA and PFOS, often called ‘legacy compounds,’ have been largely phased out of current use and have been replaced by GenX and PFBS.
EPA has issued interim updated health advisories of 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS, with a minimum reporting level of 4 ppt. These interim advisories replace the 2016 provisional health advisory of 70 ppt for both compounds. According to EPA, there is an increased risk of adverse health effects, including effects on the immune system, the cardiovascular system, human development (e.g., decreased birth weight), and cancer, by consuming water with compounds above the health advisory level, especially over a lifetime.
EPA recommends water systems that measure any levels of PFOA or PFOS to take steps to inform customers, undertake additional sampling to assess the level, scope and source of contamination, and examine steps to limit exposure. At this time, EPA is not recommending bottled water or providing alternative water sources, based solely on the concentrations of these chemicals within drinking water that exceeds the health advisory levels.
Data on the PFOA and PFOS levels in North Carolina’s private drinking water wells and public water systems are limited. However, available sampling indicates the presence of one or both compounds in multiple public water systems across the state. DEQ and DHHS are evaluating the available data in light of these new health advisories to identify potentially affected communities and respond accordingly to address the impacts to North Carolina residents. DHHS is committed in providing guidance on these specific health impacts by making the most up-to-date information available to the public. Specific health information can be found in the EPA’s health advisories or in the NCDHHS’ PFAS fact sheet and GenX fact sheet.
Most exposures occur by consuming food or water containing PFAS. The EPA health advisories account for the margin of safety for other potential exposure sources, such as through skin (dermal), breathing (inhalation), dietary exposure, consumer products, etc. You can lower the risks of health impacts by using home or point of use water filters or alternate water sources if PFAS are above health advisory levels in your drinking water. Information on testing and filtration can be found in the NCDHHS PFAS Testing and Filtration Resources Fact Sheet.
While health advisories are not enforceable regulatory standards, EPA plans to propose federal drinking water standards for both PFOA and PFOS. DEQ is also evaluating the appropriate next steps to assist communities, well owners, and water systems in advance of the proposed federal drinking water standards.
For PFBS, the EPA has set a health advisory at 2,000 ppt. Please note, however, that PFBS have not been found to be in high enough concentrations in any samplings to date in North Carolina.
In closing, NC’s DEQ and DHHS are planning additional outreach efforts in the weeks to come for any affected residents. In addition to this, information on emerging compounds within North Carolina, including the DEQ Action Strategy for PFAS, can be found here. If you should have additional health-related questions, feel free to contact the NC DHHS’ Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch at 919-707-5900.
Download Media Release COVID-19 - June 16, 2022 (PDF)