The Current Status of US and UK Regulation of PFAS.

(Excerpted from a Harvard School of Public Health article by Dr. Phillipe Grandjean.)


Q: Are governments in Europe and the U.S. taking any action to regulate PFASs?

A: The Council of EU Ministers recently concluded that the European Commission should generate a joint EU strategy on PFASs, treating all the many individual compounds as a group and recommending that they be approved only for essential uses. This means that two commonly used PFASs, such as PFOA and PFOS [perfluorooctane sulfonic acid], cannot be swapped out for other PFASs, except for uses considered “essential.” This is being done because the entire class of chemicals is suspected of having similar properties in regard to environmental dissemination and human health.

Individual EU agencies are currently working on more specific issues, such as lowering tolerable limits in drinking water and phasing out the use of PFASs in food wrappings.

In the U.S., older PFASs are being phased out but they are being substituted with similar PFASs that have not yet been tested in any detail and are therefore not regulated.

There are some legislative efforts underway in Congress to address the use of PFASs, and these are of course highly beneficial and appropriate. For example, one proposal would require a number of actions, including the stipulation that the EPA set nationwide drinking water regulations for PFOA and PFOS. But the proposal would give the EPA two more years to address what are termed “unreasonable risks” from these chemicals, which is generous, as EPA has been aware of the growing problems for a very long time. It’s also not clear if President Trump will approve these congressional proposals. He recently threatened to veto a bill that would phase out the military’s use of firefighting foams that contain PFASs and that has led to the contamination of vast groundwater reservoirs.

States continue to be impatient and have developed their own approaches to control what some call the PFAS “crisis.” Most recently, New Hampshire has announced new water limits for the four major PFASs, with limits for two of those, PFOS and PFOA, about five-fold lower than the EPA guidelines. At least six other states have also set limits below EPA guidelines.

TCE—How To Get Rid of It

The usual recommendation for TCE removal is carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, and packed tower aeration. Clearly, the best protection strategy for residential users is whole house carbon filtration and undersink reverse osmosis for drinking water. TCE is a “whole house” treatment issue because it can be either inhaled as a vapor, absorbed through the skin in bathing, or ingested in drinking water. Although a few states have set lower limits, the federal maximum acceptable limit for TCE is 5 parts per billion.

Who Much Nitrate Do Home RO Units Remove?

A standard rejection rate chart for thinfilm RO membranes that we use gives the rejection rate for nitrates as 93% to 96%. Other charts we’ve seen put the rate as low as 80%.  While nitrate is removed handily by small RO units, it isn’t what RO is best at.

Factors that affect performance negatively are low water pressure, low pH, and high sodium and sulfate levels.

If water pressure is low, adding a pressure boosting pump to the RO unit would enhance performance. Or, if very low nitrate levels are essential, you can add a nitrate-specific anion cartridge to your undersink RO unit which should assure virtual 100% nitrate reduction. A small nitrate cartridge operating as an RO post-filter will normally have more than enough capacity for a year of service between cartridge changes.

Nitrates are mainly a drinking water issue, so whole house treatment is usually unnecessary.

After at least 7 children diagnosed with cancer, parents eye chemical in city’s water

CBS News Report, January 19, 2019

Parents in one California community are fighting for answers after at least seven children were diagnosed with cancer in the past four years. Earlier this year, they fought to remove a cell phone tower from a local elementary school campus. Now, they’re focusing on a chemical in their drinking water supply that’s linked to cancer. And Ripon, California, is just one of dozens of cities across the country dealing with the possibly harmful chemical.

“Until we figure out what is happening in this town, we won’t stop,” said Kellie Prime, a mother whose son, Kyle, is one of at least seven kids in Ripon who have been diagnosed with cancer in recent years. Prime and another mother successfully had the cell phone tower removed, and have since shifted focus to the drinking water.

“My gut tells me that something is here that’s causing these issues,” Prime said.

Ripon was once home to a Nestle plant that used trichloroethylene, or TCE, to decaffeinate coffee until the 1970s.  Nestle discharged the plant’s wastewater into the city’s sewers. TCE was recently found in one of five city drinking water wells.

The city of Ripon said TCE levels reached 90% of the EPA maximum allowed in drinking water last summer.  The well was turned off four months later.  The city says the water “meets all established drinking water standards,” and Nestle said that for more than 30 years, the company has “implemented… cleanup and water protection measures to ensure… levels… do not exceed California standards.”

But University of California San Francisco scientist Veena Singla said that when it comes to chemicals like TCE, there are no safe levels of exposure.

“Drinking water standards and guidelines that we have now are many decades old, and they don’t account for the latest science that shows pregnant women and children are more susceptible to TCE,” Singla said.

Millions of pounds of TCE are used every year for manufacturing and degreasing. The chemical can migrate from industrial sites into surrounding communities through the soil and water, and can even turn into a clear, odorless vapor that moves up into the homes above.

“We know it can cause cancer by any route of exposure,” Singla said. “So what that means is whether you breathe it in, whether you drink it in contaminated water… we’re concerned about all those exposures.”

When asked if she thinks TCE exposure could have caused her son’s cancer, Prime said that “I think it needs to be looked into, for sure.”

Last year, CBS News visited Franklin, Indiana, where dozens of kids were diagnosed with cancer. A non-profit found high levels of toxins, including TCE vapor, in homes near an old manufacturing site. Clean up and testing under the EPA is ongoing.

“We used our kids as the canary in the coal mine in our town,” said Kari Rhinehart, who lost her daughter to brain cancer.

In White Bear Township, Minnesota, community members diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones were outraged after learning a company that makes fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts admitted TCE had been leaking into the air for years, at points reaching seven times what was allowed.

In Ripon, families are calling for additional vapor testing. “We have a lot more questions than we do answers — so until we get those answers to those questions, we are very concerned,” Prime said.

Regulators say potential health effects from TCE depend on the amount and length of exposure, and it can be difficult to trace the cause of any one cancer diagnosis.  But Prime says after seeing her son’s battle firsthand, she’ll do anything to prevent other parents from experiencing the same pain.

“It was hell… it was life-altering,” Prime said. “He’s sick every day, losing weight, losing his hair.”

Her son is now in remission – but Prime is determined to keep pushing forward. She said she’s motivated by “the fight these kids have in them.”

“We have to show them that we will fight for them,” she said.

The regional water board has asked Nestle to do additional vapor testing to ensure TCE levels are within new, stricter guidelines set by the state.  Nestle says the work plan has been submitted and approved by the water board.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement


This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the removal of the 160 year old Edwards Dam on the Kennebek River.


Edwards Dam was a hydroelectric dam on the Kennebec River in the U.S. state of Maine. It was located in Augusta, Maine, about 40 miles (64 km) upstream from the Atlantic Ocean. Built in 1837 of timber and concrete, it was 917 feet (280 m) long and 24 feet (7.3 m) high. It is most famous for its removal in 1999, the first removal of a hydroelectric dam by the government against the wishes of the dam owner. 

Twenty years ago, the annual run of alewives (a migratory fish essential to the marine food web) up Maine’s Kennebec River was zero. Today, it’s five million — thanks to the removal of Edwards Dam and additional restoration measures upstream. The Kennebec and its web of life have rebounded in many ways since Edwards Dam came down in 1999.

The removal of Edwards Dam was significant because it was the first time the federal government ordered a dam removed because its costs outweighed its benefits. The restoration of the Kennebec sparked a movement for free-flowing rivers in the U.S. and around the world.

According to the dam removal database maintained by American Rivers, 1,605 dams have been removed in the U.S. since 1912. Most of these (1,199) have occurred since the removal of Edwards Dam in 1999. The year with the most dam removals was 2018 (99 dams removed). 2017 was the second most productive year, with 91 dams removed.

The lesson from the Kennebec after twenty years? Dam removal works.   The Natural Resources Council of Maine report that since Edwards Dam was removed on July 1, 1999, tens of millions of alewives, blueback herring, striped bass, shad, and other sea-run fish have traveled up the Kennebec River, past the former Edwards Dam, which blocked upstream passage since 1837.  Abundant osprey, bald eagles, sturgeon and other wildlife have also returned.

According to American Rivers, “On a basic level, dam removals matter for the specific rivers and ecosystems that are restored to health. But looking at the bigger picture, dam removals also matter in terms of our relationship with all rivers – because with every individual act of restoration we’re creating a new and compelling picture of what the future can look like. We’re spotlighting the benefits that healthy, free-flowing rivers can naturally provide. We’re demonstrating the power of local citizens to drive positive change. And we’re proving that communities can reclaim their rivers and their stories.”


Toxic algae blooms force Mississippi to close all mainland beaches

Mississippi authorities are telling people to stay out of the water because the toxic algae can cause rashes, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea

By Ben Kesslen and Associated Press


Mississippi closed all mainland beaches on the state’s coastline during the Fourth of July weekend due to toxic bacteria sweeping the state’s Gulf Coast.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has been closing beaches due to blue-green algae blooms since June.

By Sunday, the spread of the noxious bacteria forced the department to close the state’s last open mainland beach.

Blue-green algae blooms can cause rashes, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, and state officials also advised against eating fish or seafood from areas affected by the algae.

Beaches on the state’s barrier island remain open, according to the National Park Service, but are being closely monitored. MDEQ said people and pets are welcome to sit on the beach, but are not to go in the water.

The blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, live in water and are the most common type of algae to bloom. The algae often have a distinct musty smell and sometimes look like paint floating on water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA says the blooms are happening because of Mississippi River flooding that ravaged the Midwest and Southeast all spring.

To ease the flood waters and prevent the water from reaching New Orleans, authorities opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway, which diverted some of the water to the Mississippi Gulf.

Another contributing factor to the algae blooms: climate change.

Larry Brand, a marine biology and ecology professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, told NBC News that while blooms are mainly caused by excess nutrients, “algae also like higher temperatures.”

“As the earth gets warmer, you can get more and more blooms,” Brand said.

The extreme weather that climate changes causes often leads to massive rain storms and floods, which Brand says moves fertilizers from soil into bodies of water. As this becomes more common, so too might algae blooms.

And there’s no real way to stop a bloom once it happens in a large body of water.

“You’re going to have to wait for the tides to flush it away,” Brand said.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

Recycled Filter Carbon

Residential water filters and reverse osmosis units normally use filter carbon in some form, and the carbon used in residential units is normally new carbon. There is no program that we know of that recycles filter carbon from small household filter cartridges for reuse as filter carbon. Over the years some vendors have advertised recycling of spent filter cartridges, but these programs were, in our view,  more about marketing than recycling, designed to appeal to environmentally conscious customers and to promote cartridge replacement sales. Recycling of small cartridge carbon is simply not economically feasible.

However, carbon recycling does happen, and in a big way, with large industrial and municipal filter applications.

Here’s an interesting account of how carbon recycling works, from the Calgon Corporation, a major provider of filter carbon.

What should treatment operators know about the differences between virgin and reactivated GAC when evaluating options for PFC removal?

Although virgin and reactivated GAC may be of the same starting material and same activity level, they are two distinct products. Virgin GAC is an activated carbon product that has not been used in a previous application, so its quality and performance are consistent. Reactivated GAC is a product whose capacity was exhausted (spent) in a previous application and has undergone a high-temperature thermal process to destroy adsorbed material (remove contaminants) and restore a majority of the adsorptive capacity that allows the product to be reused in appropriate applications. The reactivation process alters the pore structure and can impact performance/quality, but can still provide a cost-effective treatment solution.

Within the term “reactivated GAC” it is also important to distinguish between a custom-reactivated GAC and a pool reactivated GAC. A custom-reactivated GAC is a product that has been previously used and spent in a specific customer’s application, removed from service, segregated from other spent GAC, reactivated, and returned to the same customer for reuse. In a pool reactivated product, spent carbons from a variety of customers’ applications are co-mingled, reactivated, and used for a variety of non-potable applications. The quality of a custom-reactivated product is generally higher than the quality of a pool-reactivated product, but is highly dependent on the application in which it was used, the reactivation conditions, and the initial carbon product. Custom reactivation is most economical for quantities above 20,000 pounds. It is vital to select a virgin material that can withstand multiple cycles of treatment and reactivation. A reagglomerated, bituminous, coal-based product has been shown to be a superior base product for reactivated GAC. 

Garfield Phone Ocean Pollution Case Solved


Since the 1980s pieces and parts of a bright orange novelty telephone depicting the cartoon cat Garfield have been appearing on beaches in Brittany in France. Not just an occasional phone.  A lot of them.

Until early 2019 the origin of these phones was a mystery. According to the BBC, the mystery was finally solved when a lost shipping container filled with Garfield phones “in a more complete condition than any found before them,” was discovered in a secluded sea cave accessible only during low tide. Unfortunately, the location of the lost shipping container makes recovery virtually impossible, so the Garfield phones are expected to continue to land on Brittany’s shores for years to come. Locals apparently are sick of picking them up. The seemingly endless supply illustrates how many small objects can be crammed into a single cargo container.

Incidents like the Garfield phone event have contributed to the belief that lost shipping containers are a major cause of ocean pollution.

Are wayward containers polluting global waterways at alarming rates?

Most of the time there are about 6,000 container ships active on the world’s seas and waterways to facilitate global trade. Lost containers represent only about one thousandth of 1 percent of the roughly 130 million container loads shipped each year, according to the World Shipping Council (WSC), which publishes results of a member survey every three years. According to the WSC:

For its 2017 report, the latest available, WSC gathered data for 2014-2016. The average annual number of containers lost at sea, excluding catastrophic events, was 612 during the period. That number is down about 16 percent compared to the average of 733 units lost each year for the previous three-year period. When catastrophic losses are included, defined as 50 or more containers in a single incident, the total number of containers lost at sea averaged 1,390 annually for the most recent period. That’s still a 48 percent reduction from the average annual losses of 2,683 estimated during the previous three-year period.

By comparison, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution — a substantial amount from single-use plastic bottles and grocery sacks — finds its way into the oceans each year.

Clearly, though a thousand plus gigantic shipping containers lost at sea annually can spew out a lot of weird telephones and other assorted debris, the amount of  garbage they dump into the seas seems small when compared with the ongoing rivers of plastic put forth daily by everyday human activities.


oceanplastics plasticpollution

This plastic is not from a lost ship container but from humans going about their daily business.

Dermal Uptake of Nitrates

Posted June 29th, 2019

Are Nitrates Taken in Through the Skin?

There is growing evidence that nitrates in water are a serious threat to human health, that nitrate levels in water supplies, both public and private, are steadily increasing, and that the longstanding 10 part per million regulatory allowable is way too lenient.

The bright side of the nitrate issue, though, is that home treatment for nitrates is relatively easy and inexpensive. Like many other problem contaminants, lead, arsenic, and PFAS, for example, nitrates are almost entirely an ingestion issue.  Nitrates are dangerous when swallowed, but of no great concern for other household exposures like bathing, washing clothing, or cleaning.

Here’s what the World Health Organization says:

Using a multiroute exposure assessment approach (Krishnan & Carrier, 2008), it was found, on the basis of the estimated skin permeability coefficients and the air to water concentration values, that dermal and inhalation exposures to nitrate or nitrite through showering or bathing were not significant (Health Canada, 2013).  WHO: Nitrate and Nitrite in Drinking Water.

Similarly, the US Environmental Protection Agency says:


Nitrates in water used for showering or bathing is not a health concern. Nitrates in drinking water above the federal standard (10mg/L) can be very harmful if ingested, so a treatment device on taps that dispense water primarily for drinking or cooking is recommended.


The Oregon State Health Authority says that high nitrate water should not be used for drinking or preparing food, but that it is safe for gardening, washing dishes, cleaning, and laundry.  Bathing?  “Nitrate does not easily enter the body through the skin. Bathing, swimming and showering with water that has levels of nitrate over 10 mg/L is safe as long as you avoid swallowing the water. Supervise small children when they are bathing and brushing teeth to ensure they do not swallow the water.”


The practical lesson from this is that point of use treatment for nitrates is the easy solution  An undersink reverse osmosis unit or a small undersink filter with a nitrate cartridge can provide high quality drinking water. Nitrate removal for water for the rest of the home is not essential.

Your Drinking Water May Harbor Cancer-Causing Nitrate

By Steven Reinberg

Millions of tons of nitrate from industrial farming find their way into America’s drinking water each year, causing thousands of cases of cancer and other health problems, an environmental advocacy group says.

In a new report, researchers from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) quantify the risk. They say nitrate is responsible for nearly 12,600 cases of cancer a year.

“Industrialized farming relies heavily on nitrate fertilizers that can run off into the water table used by drinking water utilities,” said Sydney Evans, a science analyst at EWG.

The risk varies from region to region, she said, noting that many small farming communities have the highest nitrate levels in their water — and the highest risk. Iowa and California, two heavily agricultural states, were found to have the most nitrate-related cancer cases.

A Yale University researcher who reviewed the report said the danger it highlights is clear and exists throughout the country.

“An immediate response is warranted, so that we are not poisoning our water to produce our food,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.

The report said 80% of the nitrate-related cancers were colorectal, with ovarian, thyroid, kidney and bladder cancer accounting for the rest. Treatment costs up to $1.5 billion a year, according to the report.

Nitrate in tap water also has been tied to serious health issues for infants, the researchers said. Among them: nearly 3,000 babies with very low birth weight; more than 1,700 preterm births; and 41 cases of neural tube defects each year in the United States.

Katz said that although the study has limitations, it makes a compelling case that nitrates from what he described as “agriculture as usual” in the United States are “imposing grave costs measured in both lives and dollars.”

Meanwhile, Evans called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revisit its public health standards for drinking water. A main mission of her group is to prevent nitrate from fouling drinking water.

Since 1962, the federal standard for nitrate in drinking water has stood at 10 milligrams per liter. The report said problems have been found at one-tenth of that level.

The EPA was slated to re-evaluate its standards with an eye to reducing the permissible level in drinking water, but the Trump administration canceled those plans, Evans said.

For tap water to be safe, she said, nitrate levels would have to be 70 times lower than today.

Nitrate is hard and costly to filter out of water, Evans said. Some towns and cities, however, do remove it and pass along the cost to residents.

Private wells can also have high nitrate levels. People who rely on well water have to spend thousands of dollars to add reverse osmosis systems if they want to remove nitrate, Evans said.

The best policy, she said, is to prevent large quantities of nitrate from getting into the water in the first place. It’s up to the government to set safe standards and make sure the farm industry adheres to them, she added.

The report was published June 11 in the journal Environmental Research.

More information

To learn more about nitrate in drinking water, visit Cornell University  Article Source: US News and World Report.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

Pure Water Gazette Commentary: Nitrate removal for individual homes is not as difficult or expensive as the article implies. Reverse osmosis undersink drinking water systems are moderately priced and readily available.  Also, nitrate is a drinking water issue: whole house treatment is normally unnecessary.