Delayed HHS report lowers minimal risk levels for toxic chemicals

June 20 (UPI) — The Department of Health and Human Services released a long-awaited report on toxic water contamination Wednesday, recommending stricter advisory levels for chemicals.

The 850-page report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found the “minimal risk levels” for oral exposure to the two chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA, which have entered communities’ drinking water, are lower than previously recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA’s levels, established in 2016, were 10 and 6.7 times higher for each of the chemicals respectively.

The polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS chemicals were used in products such as food packaging materials and firefighting foams.

PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured or imported into the United States but were widely used until the mid-2000s allowing the chemicals to make their way into air, dust, food and drinking water.

Low levels of exposure have been linked to thyroid defects, pregnancy issues and certain types of cancer.

Issues related to the chemicals have forced companies to pay large court settlements, including 3M Co., which paid $1.5 billion to settle lawsuits related to water contamination and personal injury claims for using the chemicals to make Scotchguard.

The release of the report was delayed for months after a White House official said it could be a “potential public relations nightmare.”

The EPA plans to hold a community meeting on PFAS in New Hampshire next week.