OEHHA Releases Long-Awaited Proposed Public Health Goals for PFOA and PFOS

Nossaman LLP

Yesterday, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency announced the release of a draft document for public review describing proposed Public Health Goals (PHGs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water. The release of the draft PHGs is a long-awaited and significant step in the regulation of such per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in California.

The draft PHGs identified by OEHHA are 0.007 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA to address concerns based on kidney cancer in humans associated with exposure to PFOA and 1 ppt for PFOS to address concerns related to liver and pancreatic tumors in laboratory animals associated with exposure to PFOS. The draft document also presents health-protective drinking water concentrations for noncancer health effects. The proposed noncancer health-protective concentrations are 3 ppt for PFOA, based on increased risk of liver damage in humans and 2 ppt for PFOS, based on increased total cholesterol in humans.

A PHG is the level of a drinking water contaminant at which adverse health effects are not expected to occur from a lifetime of exposure. The California Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996 requires OEHHA to develop PHGs based exclusively on public health considerations. While PHGs are not regulatory requirements directly and instead represent non-mandatory health goals, PHGs published by OEHHA are then considered by the State Water Resources Control Board in setting enforceable drinking water regulatory standards (Maximum Contaminant Levels, or MCLs) for California. Such MCLs are established as close to the PHG as is technically and economically feasible, placing primary emphasis on the protection of public health.

The public comment period for the draft PHGs begins July 30, 2021 and ends September 28, 2021. Comments may be submitted electronically here. OEHHA will also be holding a virtual public workshop to discuss the draft on September 28, 2021 from 1:00 - 4:00 PM PST. More information is available here.

Following the workshop, public comment period and external scientific peer review, OEHHA will evaluate all the comments received, revise the document as appropriate and make it available for an additional 30-day public comment period. After any subsequent revisions, the final document will be posted on the OEHHA website along with responses to the external peer review comments and to major comments received at the workshop and during the two public comment periods.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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