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Alabama Extension Scientist Explains Advisory Issued for Several Alabama Water Systems

Alabama Extension Scientist Explains Advisory Issued for Several Alabama Water Systems

AUBURN, Ala.—A scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says that the health advisory issued by the Environmental Protection Agency related to several Alabama water systems focuses on two compounds, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooactanoic acid (PFOA).

The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management have identified several water systems in north Alabama that had levels in excess of EPA’s new health advisory. As of May 23, water systems affected by the health advisory include the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority, as well as the West Lawrence Water Co-op and any other systems that purchase water from the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority.

Dr. Eve Brantley, an Extension water quality specialist, says that in May the EPA set the health advisory to 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS combined in drinking water.

“Previously, the health advisories were 400 ppt for PFOA and 200 ppt for PFOS with the assumption of short-term exposure,” said Brantley. “The new standards are based on long-term (lifetime) exposure.”

She says the EPA health advisory targets several specific populations.

“EPA’s health advisories for PFOS/PFOA recommend that pregnant and breast-feeding mothers consider using alternate sources of drinking water if levels are of concern,” said Brantley. “For formula-fed infants, parents may consider using formula that does not require adding water or use alternate water source.

She added that other people served by these systems might also consider adopting these steps.

“The health advisory does not include pets, livestock or irrigation water,” said Brantley. “Pets and livestock generally don’t live long enough for long-term exposure to be a concern.”

PFOA and PFOS are man-made chemical compounds that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. They are found in products such as nonstick cookware, carpet protection products, firefighting foams, and waterproof clothing.

EPA issued health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory, rather Brantley explains that they provide technical information to state agencies and other public health officials on drinking water contaminants that can cause human health effects.

 

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