EPA Announces new Drinking Water Standards for PFAS

The EPA has announced new drinking water standards for per- and poly-fluorinated compounds, also called PFAS. These chemicals have unique properties that make them useful for reducing sticking and friction between surfaces. They are used in non-stick cookware, firefighting foam, stain-resistant clothes, household cleaners, paints and finishes, and industrial machinery. Unfortunately, many PFAS have been found to be harmful to people’s health, and are “forever chemicals” that can be found in the environment for many years. People can reduce their exposure to PFAS in consumer produces by using EPA Safer Choice certified products, and EPA is now reducing PFAS in drinking water.

There are hundreds of PFAS, but the EPA is focusing on a handful. The PFAS EPA is focusing on are linked to health effects including several types of cancer and reduced immunity. EPA is setting individual limits for five PFAS (PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA or GenX chemicals). EPA is also setting a limit on mixtures exceeding a safe level of a group of four PFAS (PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals).  Drinking water systems will be required to test for these chemicals and treat the water to lower their concentration if they are too high. The new standards will be implemented over the next few years. Drinking water systems must test their water for PFAS and report the results to customers within three years. They must treat water to meet the new standards within five years.

EPA Warns Farmworkers About Risks of Dacthal

On April 1st, 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the herbicide tetrachloroterephthalate (DCPA), commonly known as Dacthal, may pose a risk to people who apply the pesticide or enter treated fields. This was determined during a registration review, which is done every 15 years to ensure the safety of registered pesticides. DCPA is an herbicide widely used to control weeds, particularly in agricultural settings where crops like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and onions are grown. 

The agency estimated that pregnant individuals working with DCPA products could be exposed to levels of the herbicide that are 4 to 20 times higher than what is considered safe, even if proper personal protective equipment and engineering controls are used. Additionally, the current label restricts entry into treated areas for 12 hours, but these areas may remain unsafe for 25 days or longer. The babies of people exposed to Dacthal during pregnancy could be at risk for low birth weight, impaired brain development, decreased IQ, and impaired motor skills. 

The EPA is issuing a warning to farmworkers based on these findings, and is in the process of determining if use of this pesticide needs to be suspended or cancelled. 


January is National Radon Action Month

EPA has designated January as National Radon Action Month. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is released from rocks under the ground. Radon rises through the ground and can enter homes, where it is found at the highest levels in low areas like basements and the first floor. Breathing high levels of radon over a long period of time increases your risk of lung cancer, especially for people who also smoke.

You can test your home for radon to find out if the levels are too high. If a home does have high levels of radon, you can have a radon reduction system installed that will collect gases rising out of the ground and exhaust them from the home. The Virginia Department of Health Indoor Radon Program provides radon testing kits for only a $3 shipping fee.

January is Radon Action Month

EPA has set aside January as Radon Action Month. Radon is a tasteless, odorless, radioactive gas that can slowly seep out of the ground and build up in basements and ground levels of dwellings. High levels of radon in homes are linked to lung cancer, especially in smokers. Fortunately, radon levels can be reduced by installing a radon mitigation system. The first step is to find out whether radon levels in your home are too high, and the best time to do that is in the winter when windows and doors are kept closed and radon levels are highest. To help Virginia residents protect themselves from radon, the Virginia Department of Health is providing $3 radon test kits.  For more information on radon and to order your test kit, visit VDHRadon.org. You can also visit EPA’s radon page and the Virginia Department of Health’s Indoor Radon Program page.