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June 10, 2020

Miller urges EPA to protect drinking water from ‘forever’ chemicals

PFAS contamination found at D.M., Sioux City airports 

DES MOINES ― Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, as part of a 22-state coalition, has filed comments to the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency supporting the agency’s plan to regulate perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), more commonly known as PFAS or “forever” chemicals, under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  

While supportive of regulating PFOS and PFOA, the states also asked EPA to propose final drinking water standards for those specific chemicals and other PFAS that reflect current science and protect human health, as quickly as possible.  

“The state of Iowa takes the risks from these chemicals to human health and the environment very seriously,” Miller said. “Our office believes the EPA needs to require that public water systems test for and remove unsafe levels of these chemicals from drinking water.”  

PFAS chemicals resist degradation in the environment and accumulate in the body. Those contaminants may be linked to serious adverse health effects in humans and animals. Human health effects associated with exposure to PFOA may include kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, and preeclampsia; exposure to PFOS is associated with immune system effects, changes in liver enzymes and thyroid hormones, and other conditions. 

Across the country, PFAS contamination is most often associated with 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. The U.S. military has found high levels of PFAS contamination in the surface water and groundwater at the Air National Guard bases in Sioux City and Des Moines. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has an action plan to address PFAS contamination and state officials are part of a working group to address risks. 

The attorneys general state in the letter, “[…] without treatment, PFOA and PFOS contamination will continue to worsen and will persist in drinking water sources indefinitely. Due to the harmful effects of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, swift promulgation of stringent final drinking water standards is crucial to enable EPA to take effective regulatory enforcement actions to address PFAS contamination.” 

In addition to Miller, attorneys general from the following states signed the letter: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.    

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