New Jersey Will Be First State to Set Formal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFNA

On Wednesday (November 1, 2017), the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martin, announced that New Jersey will become the first state to set formal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for perfluorooctoanic acid (PFOA) and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), thereby improving drinking water quality and protecting the health and wellbeing of New Jersey residents. These MCLs will be set at 14 and 13 parts per trillion respectively, and will require state-wide testing of public drinking water systems, as well as consistent monitoring, to ensure that these levels are not exceeded.

Because of the nature of these chemicals, this represents a huge victory for public health and environmental protection. First PFOA and PFNA do not readily break down, and therefore persist for many years in both the environment and our bodies, even in trace amounts. They are also associated with serious health concerns. An increasing number of studies have found that exposure to PFOA and PFNA may contribute to impaired liver and immune system function, increased blood cholesterol levels, developmental delays in fetuses and infants, and increased risk of certain cancers. New Jersey’s decision to regulate PFOA and PFNA is therefore a critical step towards safeguarding the health of our communities by limiting exposure to these dangerous chemicals.

This decision further demonstrates that it is feasible to limit the amount of these chemicals in our drinking water. This powerful initiative should serve as a model for the EPA to implement MCLs for PFOA and PFNA at the federal level in order to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans. New Jersey’s decision to address this issue at the state level should also set a precedent for other states to adopt a similar state-level approach to reducing the concentration of PFOA and PFNA in drinking water.