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Washington Moves Forward to Address PFAS Chemicals in Drinking Water

Good news! The Washington State Board of Health is moving forward to establish drinking water standards for cancer-causing PFAS chemicals. This is an important step to protect the health of residents from these toxic chemicals. Thank you to everyone who raised their voice to ask for strong standards! You were heard!

The Board’s action was a direct result of a petition we submitted along with the Arc of Washington State, Washington State Nurses Association, Earth Ministry, Zero Waste Washington, Progreso Latino Progress, WashPIRG, Citizens of Ebeys Reserve, and Whidbey Water Keepers.

At the Board of Health’s meeting in Yakima, Toxic-Free Future Executive Director Laurie Valeriano spoke to our coalition’s petition for drinking water standards and made the case for why water quality standards are necessary. In her remarks, she said:

“The contamination of drinking water in Washington state from PFAS chemicals is a serious public health problem for thousands of people. Unfortunately, about 15 million people in 27 states nationwide are drinking water with these industrial contaminants that can last up to 8 years in our bodies and can cause cancer.

Establishing drinking water standards are an important step in protecting our health and environment from these highly persistent toxic chemicals, which also contaminate our fish and the food we eat.

Only 132 water systems out of 4000 have been tested for these chemicals. So we don’t have a comprehensive picture of the extent of the contamination in the state. New standards would help change this.

People need to know that the water they are bathing their children in or making formula from is free of PFAS chemicals. New standards will ensure drinking water is tested for safety so that the state and local communities can take necessary actions to protect the public’s health if a problem arises. Residents deserve that peace of mind.”

As the Department of Health develops these standards, it will be important for the standards to not only address the legacy PFAS chemicals PFOS and PFOA, the use of which has largely been discontinued, but also the newer PFAS chemicals currently in use in firefighting foams and other products. This will help identify future problems that could arise from the use of these newer chemicals.

Of course, drinking water standards are only part of the solution to ending the toxic legacy created by PFAS chemicals. We are all exposed to PFAS chemicals from sources other than drinking water. PFAS chemicals hide in products in our homes, like food packaging for microwave popcorn and fast food, and items with nonstick and stain-resistant coatings.

We need to eliminate sources of these chemicals before they can pollute our drinking water, our bodies, and our environment. Otherwise, it’s too late. The Department of Ecology is working on a plan to reduce some sources of these chemicals.

Stay tuned on how you can help ensure a strong plan and strong drinking water standards. Make sure you’re receiving our updates. You can sign up here!