On June 18, 2019, investigative journalist Sharon Lerner published an article in The Intercept reporting on new data from the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) suggesting that a protective concentration for the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA; CAS 335-67-1) in drinking water should be as low as 0.1 parts per trillion (ppt). This is based on rat studies investigating the development of pancreatic tumors from PFOA exposure. The results were presented by Linda Birnbaum, director of the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), during a conference on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at Northeastern University on June 10, 2019. During her presentation, Birnbaum told the audience that “if you look at the data, pancreatic tumors are present at very, very low concentrations from PFOA. If you use the pancreatic tumors in the rats in the NTP study to calculate what would really be a virtually safe dose, you’re getting down at about 0.1 ppt. Well, that’s really low. And that’s only for one PFAS.”

Commenting on the U.S. EPA’s current drinking water standard of 70 ppt for PFOA, Birnbaum said that “many of us would think that is not health protective.” In the NTP’s two-year experiment, 20 out of 50 rats developed pancreatic tumors at the lowest dose. While a statistical summary of the results has been released, the full reports on the studies are reported to be scheduled for release “later in 2019.” The article notes that regulators from the U.S. states of Minnesota and California are already considering the NTP study’s findings as they develop safety thresholds for PFAS. In April 2019, New Jersey proposed the lowest drinking water standards for PFOA yet at 14 ppt.

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Sharon Lerner (June 18, 2019). “Teflon toxin safety level should be 700 times lower than current EPA guideline.” The Intercept