By Sara Jerome,
Minnesota is setting new standards for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) as public water systems in the state struggle with contamination from this industrial pollutant.
“Rules released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health call for tightening the acceptable levels of the chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The department made the move after a new state-level analysis examined the potential for mothers to pass along the chemicals to fetuses and nursing infants,” MPR News reported.
The new standards are tougher than those imposed by the U.S. EPA, the report said.
"We err on the side of caution, and that's sort of the tradition we have here in Minnesota to really protect the most vulnerable as best we can,” Minnesota health commissioner Ed Ehlinger said, per the report.
The EPA issued a health advisory last year about exposure to perfluorinated compounds as various cities wage high-profile battles against the compounds, including Hoosick Falls, NY, and factory towns across the country. PFCs are industrial contaminants, and research has tied them to cancer.
The EPA guideline is set at 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS. The new Minnesota standard is about half that.
Jim Kelly, a program director at the health department, explained how state officials reached their decision.
"Our work focused on really trying to quantify exposures to the developing fetus when the mother is passing on these chemicals through the placenta, as well as the potential for passing them on through breast feeding," he said.
Minnesota is not the first state to suggest a standard tougher than the EPA’s. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Drinking Water Quality Institute issued a recommendation last year for “a limit of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) in drinking water to protect against health effects during a lifetime of consumption,” The Intelligencer reported.
In Minnesota, industrial waste in landfills seeped into groundwater to contaminate the water supply. Firefighting foam from training exercises played a role as well.
PFC challenges in Minnesota have sparked some cities to conserve water.
“Cottage Grove announced a watering ban and encouraged citizens to participate in water conservation in light of the Minnesota Department of Health's decision to lower recommended levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in drinking water,” the South Washington County Bulletin reported.
To read more about PFC issues visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.