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With western Pennsylvania as a "forever chemicals" hotspot, environmental groups applaud the EPA's regulations

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The EPA is pushing forward with plans to protect all of us from "forever chemicals" known as PFAS.

The EPA announced the first-ever national regulations on the amount of PFAS -- per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances -- allowed in drinking water. The new standards will require testing to limit exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals. The EPA says that'll prevent thousands of deaths and illnesses.

Washington will distribute a billion dollars to help each state with testing, detection and treatment. The chemicals are found in many areas, including in western Pennsylvania. 

Unfortunately, western Pennsylvania is a hot spot when it comes to these "forever chemicals." They're in the water, in our streams -- even on the rocks that line our streams. All these chemicals get into our bodies and they don't go away, so now for the first time, there's a crackdown on the levels that are allowed.

It's a day of celebration for many local environmental leaders as the EPA puts limits on "forever chemicals" in our drinking water.

"Science informs us that the PFAS exposures are toxic, even at these low concentrations, and PFAS have been linked to very certain and specific cancers, linked to harm to the reproductive and nervous systems as well as cardiovascular disease," said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, the executive director of Pittsburgh-based Women for a Healthy Environment.

These new drinking water standards will crack down on the man-made chemicals that come from anything from firefighting foam to furniture. 

"Drinking water utilities will be required to test for three years, and then have an additional two years to comply with the new limits on PFAS and as I mentioned, Congress has provided the funding to addressing PFAS and drinking water," said Naccarati-Chapkis.

Water systems will use that new funding to monitor six different PFAS and remove them if they're above the allowable level. 

"The most exciting thing is that now the levels are gonna start to come down," said Stephanie Wein, a clean water advocate with PennEnvironment. "And so that's why these rules are so important because there isn't really a way to avoid this, it's either in our tap water, and it's certainly in our bottled water. And so unless you know of a specific high level of contamination on your personal private well, there is no step to take right now besides sit tight and get excited for our water to get even healthier." 

No matter where your water is coming from, you can get involved and be active in tracking this. Your water company will send out pamphlets or they'll have it posted on their website, and they're going to start tracking the PFAS so you can see the levels in your water and watch the levels go down.

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