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Regulations of forever chemicals(PFAS)  in drinking water worldwide
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Regulations of forever chemicals(PFAS) in drinking water worldwide

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) or "forever chemicals" are highly toxic chemical substances in our everyday products. These chemicals have invaded our natural resources, including drinking water, posing a health risk. According to a study by the US Geological Survey, the forever chemicals are now found in nearly half of tap water in the US. There are different regulations for forever chemicals around the world, with some countries banning specific types of PFAS and some limiting their use in drinking water. What are PFAS Chemicals? Introduced in the 1930s, PFAS are widely used, long-lasting chemicals for consumer, commercial, and industrial products that break down slowly over time. However, years of heavy use of these chemicals resulted in water and soil contamination. There is also evidence of PFAS in low amounts of human and animal blood, food products, and the environment. Due to their taking a long time to break, they are also known as “forever chemicals.” This causes them to accrue in water and soil over time, negatively affecting humans, animals, and the surrounding habitats. Studies have linked PFAS to various health effects such as cancer, liver disease, lipid, insulin dysregulation, altered immune, and adverse reproductive outcomes. PFAS are challenging to study, as thousands are found in different consumer, commercial, and industrial products. This makes it hard to assess the chemicals' environmental and health risks. How are we exposed to PFAS chemicals? People can be exposed to PFAS in various ways. Consuming contaminated water or food made with PFAS is one of the ways. As PFAS chemicals take years to break down, repeated exposure can lead to accumulation over time. According to the Environmental Working Group, up to 110 million Americans have been exposed to forever chemicals by drinking contaminated water. Additionally, workers producing PFAS and the materials containing these chemicals are highly exposed compared to the general population. Workers can be exposed to PFAS by touching or swallowing materials. PFAS are also found in clothes labeled stain or water repellent, personal care products, and cosmetics. Way to purify water from PFAS Certain technologies have effectively removed PFAS chemicals from water, especially PFAS and PFOA. These technologies include activated carbon adsorption, Ion Exchange Resins, and High-pressure membranes. Activated Carbon Adsorption This is the most studied treatment for PFAS removal. Activated carbon is commonly used to adsorb natural organic compounds, taste and odor compounds, and synthetic organic chemicals in drinking water treatment systems1. Granular activated carbon (GAC) has been shown to remove PFAS from drinking water effectively. Ion Exchange Resins Ion exchange is a water treatment process commonly used for softening or demineralization. It is also used to remove other substances from the water. There are two standard ion exchange resins: cationic and anionic. Cationic exchange resins (CER) that carry a negative charge efficiently eliminate contaminants with a positive charge. Conversely, anion exchange resins (AER) with a positive charge effectively remove contaminants with a negative charge, such as PFAS. High-Pressure Mebranes These include nanofiltration or reverse osmosis systems. They apply pressure to the water to force it through a membrane, removing contaminants. Studies indicate that these membranes are generally over 90 percent successful in eliminating a broad spectrum of PFAS, including those with shorter chains. In addition to these technologies, some companies specialize in water purification and removing PFAS from water. PFAS regulation around the world PFAS present high potential dangers, which has led to many national and international institutions establishing regulations to control their production and use. The Stockholm Convention was a critical global treaty signed by 152 nations. It mandates signatories to ban or substantially limit PFOA's production, import, and export. Outside of Stockholm regulation, various countries are regulating the use and production of PFAS: United States US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation on April 10, 2024, setting legally enforceable levels for six PFAS in drinking water. These are PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFNA, and HFPO-DA with individual MCLs. In addition, the EPA finalized health-based, non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) for these PFAS. The EPA also makes a record amount of funding available to ensure everyone can access clean, safe drinking water. According to the new regulation, approximately 100 million people should be protected from PFAS exposure through drinking water over many years, thousands of deaths will be prevented, and tens of thousands of serious illnesses attributed to PFAS will be reduced. Before the EPA's final regulation of PFAS, several states were already enacting laws ahead of the federal regulation. Maine, for instance, passed a first-in-the-nation law prohibiting products made with PFAS chemicals intentionally added. By January 1, 2023, companies will be required to report their PFAS usage under the law that will take effect in 2030. European Union The European Union (EU) has several regulations that restrict the use of PFAS, including: Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: Published in October 2020, this strategy includes phasing out the use of PFAS in the EU unless their use is essential. Drinking Water Directive: The revised directive includes a limit of 0.5 μg/l for all PFAS. Proposal to restrict PFAS chemicals in the EU: Published by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) on February 7, 2023, this proposal includes a ban on around 10,000 PFAS. UK There are no statutory standards for PFAS in drinking water in England and Wales. However, in England and Wales, there is guidance on PFAS in water, including a 'wholesomeness' guideline value of 100 ng/l for any of the 47 individual PFAS listed in the DWI's Information Letter 05/2021. In recent years, growing pressure has been to tighten regulations regarding using PFAS in drinking water in the UK. It was recommended by the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry in October 2023 that the DWI's guidelines be revised to reduce the limit for PFAS from 100 ng/l to 10 ng/l and to introduce a new overall limit of 100ng/l for a broader range of PFAS in drinking water. Japan As a participant in the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants, Japan has enforced a ban on using and importing PFAS chemicals. Despite this, the regulation of most PFAS, including PFOA, PFHxA, PFHxS, and PFOS, remains partial, indicating a lack of comprehensive control over these substances in the country. Similarly, no maximum levels of PFOS, PFOA, or any PFAS chemical are set for tap water in Japan. In the firefighting industry, there are no regulations regarding using firefighting foam extinguishing agents containing PFOS or any other PFAS substance. Russia Russia regulates certain PFASs to align with international conventions and agreements. These include the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM, Recommendation 31E/1), the Stockholm Convention on POPs (Annexes A & B), the Rotterdam Convention, SAICM, and the current OECD program on PFASs management and transition to safer alternatives. China Currently, there is no mandatory regulation of PFAS in China. However, voluntary standards are for some PFAS chemicals. China is currently moving towards stricter PFAS regulations. PFOS and PFOA were published on the List of New Poluatants for Priority Management by the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environmental. Since March 1, 2023, the list has come into effect, which might affect the textile industry in China. Canada In Canada, only a limited number of PFAS chemicals are subject to regulations, which exist only at the federal level and in limited ways in British Columbia and Ontario. However, PFAS remains unregulated in other territories. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 199, enacted in 2008 by the federal government, the imports and sales of PFOS or products containing this substance are limited. In 2016, this regulations were repealed. The Canadian government 2018 introduced drinking water guidelines for various PFAS substances. India While India is a signatory and participant of the Stockholm Convention, PFAS chemicals are unregulated. While the convention added PFOS to its restriction list, India has yet to accept the amended listing. The substances remain largely unregulated among other PFAS chemicals. Latin America PFAS are poorly regulated in Latin American countries. As most Latin American countries are signatories in the Stockholm Convention listing, there is little regulation on PFOS and PFOA that aligns with this convention. However, some countries in Latin America are making efforts to regulate PFAS. For instance, Mexico has proposed restrictions on PFOS and PFOA, two common PFAS compounds. Conversely, Brazil references the U.S. EPA’s lifetime drinking water health advisories for PFAS and has included PFAS in its risk assessment worksheets for contaminated areas. Summary The global response to PFAS contamination is evolving. While the US recently established the first national limits for certain PFAS in drinking water, regulations vary widely worldwide. The EU is phasing out non-essential PFAS use; some countries, like Japan, partially restrict specific PFAS, and others, like India, have limited to no regulations. As scientific understanding of PFAS risks grows, stricter regulations will likely be implemented worldwide to safeguard public health and the environment.

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