Community exposures to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water: a national issue.

Author:Wilder, Lynn
Position:DIRECT FROM ATSDR - Column

Editor's Note: As part of our continuing effort to highlight innovative approaches to improving the health and environment of communities, the Journal is pleased to publish a bimonthly column from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). ATSDR is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and shares a common office of the Director with the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ATSDR serves the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and diseases related to toxic substances.

The purpose of this column is to inform readers of ATSDR's activities and initiatives to better understand the relationship between exposure to hazardous substances in the environment and their impact on human health and how to protect public health. We believe that the column will provide a valuable resource to our readership by helping to make known the considerable resources and expertise that ATSDR has available to assist communities, states, and others to assure good environmental health practice for all is served.

The conclusions of this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of ATSDR, CDC, or HHS.

Lynn Wilder is a senior environmental health scientist at ATSDR. Rachel Worley is an environmental health scientist at ATSDR in the Division of Community Health Investigations. Pat Breysse is the director of NCEH/ ATSDR and leads CDC's efforts to investigate the relationship between environmental factors and health.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination is present in many municipal and private drinking water supplies throughout the U.S. Communities and other groups are concerned about possible health effects related to PFAS exposure. Current scientific knowledge gaps preclude definitive answers to questions about the magnitude and types of human health problems associated with these substances. The National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) are involved in PFAS work either directly or by helping local, territorial, tribal, state, and federal partners.


In May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) issued the following drinking water lifetime health advisory values for two PFAS compounds: 70 ng/L (or parts per trillion) for both perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). The final health advisory concentration applies to either compound separately or, because U.S. EPA considers the effects to be additive, both compounds combined. These concentrations replaced U.S. EPAs provisional health advisory values of 400 ng/L (PFOA) and 200 ng/L (PFOS). Releasing these nonregulatory guidelines to states and municipal water treatment facilities lead to...

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