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EPA unveils plan to regulate, restrict toxic 'forever chemicals'

EPA unveils plan to regulate, restrict toxic 'forever chemicals'
PFAS, which are found in air conditioners and refrigerators, are called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment and can move through soil to contaminate drinking water.  File Photo by Stephen Shaver/EPA | License Photo

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan Monday to regulate dangerous and toxic "forever chemicals," which have been linked to serious health issues including cancer.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a collection of man-made industrial chemicals used in common products like air conditioners, refrigerators that have been linked to cancer.

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The EPA said its strategy will restrict pollution from a cluster of long-lasting PFAS that are more frequently being found in areas of public concern, like water supplies and food sources.

"For far too long, families across America ... have suffered from PFAS in their water, their air, or in the land their children play on," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

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"This comprehensive, national PFAS strategy will deliver protections to people who are hurting, by advancing bold and concrete actions that address the full life cycle of these chemicals."

The EPA plan sets aggressive timelines to establish enforceable drinking water limits, hold polluters financially accountable, review past actions on PFAS to test effectiveness, increase monitoring and data collection and better address emissions.

PFAS are called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment, can move through the soil to contaminate drinking water and can build up in fish and wildlife, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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"To safeguard public health and protect the environment, the efforts being announced will help prevent PFAS from being released into the air, drinking systems, and food supply, and the actions will expand cleanup efforts to remediate the impacts of these harmful pollutants," the White House added on Monday.

Regan is launching what he calls the EPA's PFAS Roadmap, which will be a thorough strategy that outlines actions over the next three years. He said it will guide the agency's activities targeting efforts to restrict and remediate PFAS, including regulatory, administrative and enforcement actions.

"Actions include a new national testing strategy to accelerate research and regulatory development, a proposal to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and actions to broaden and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS," the White House added.

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Officials said the EPA will work with other federal agencies to limit PFAS, including the Pentagon, Food and Drug Administration and Federal Aviation Administration.

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