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Wisconsin's attorney general calls for federal regulation of 'forever chemicals'

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Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and other state law enforcement officials are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand monitoring and testing of drinking water for toxic “forever chemicals.”

Kaul, a Democrat, and attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia, submitted comments Monday asking the agency to regulate PFAS as a class, something the chemical industry has staunchly opposed.

The comments, submitted in support of the EPA’s plan to require public water systems to test for 29 unregulated PFAS compounds, say the agency should also require monitoring and validate a method for measuring total PFAS, lower minimum reporting levels and advance environmental justice with PFAS monitoring.

Josh Kaul


Despite studies showing PFAS exposure negatively affects human health, there are no national drinking water standards or requirements that public water systems test for the compounds.

“Millions of people across the United States are exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water and widespread releases of PFAS into the environment,” the attorneys general wrote. “The states have limited resources to comprehensively assess and address PFAS. Therefore, it is crucial for EPA to broadly regulate PFAS ... to protect public health and the environment.”

PFAS are a group of thousands of largely unregulated synthetic compounds that do not break down naturally and have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other ailments.

Used for years in firefighting foam, food packaging, non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, carpeting and other products, PFAS have been found in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, soil, sediments, air, fish and wildlife, as well as in human blood samples.

The state Department of Natural Resources is monitoring more than 40 PFAS contamination sites across Wisconsin, including in Madison, where the water utility has shut down one well, and in Marinette and La Crosse, where residents have been provided bottled water because their private wells are contaminated.

The DNR is in the process of developing water standards for two PFAS compounds, and the state Department of Health Services has recommended limits for 16 more.

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