New Jersey Sets New PFOA Level Below Vermont Standard

Nov 3, 2017

New Jersey last week set its safe drinking water standard for the chemical PFOA at 14 parts per trillion, which is lower than Vermont's standard.

Vermont health officials say they've looked at the science behind New Jersey's decision, but they're sticking with the higher limit for now.

PFOA has been linked to a number of adverse health effects, including testicular cancer, thyroid disease and high chelsterol.

The chemical was used to make stain-and-water-proof products, and it's  been detected in water supplies all over the country.

After PFOA showed up in private wells in Bennington, Vermont set its standard at 20 parts per trillion, which was one of the lowest in the country.

Vermont Department of Health toxicologist Sarah Vose says a state like New Jersey has more resources to put together its own science investigations, while Vermont relies on Environmental Protection Agency studies.

And she says the scientists in New Jersey settled on the lower standard after years of research.

"We understand their rational for why they're different," Vose says. "But we are comfortable with the process that we used. We're comfortable with using EPA's toxicity value."

PFOA limits are not set by the EPA. The federal agency publishes reports on the chemical's toxicity levels, and then each state sets its own safe drinking water standard.

When a state like New Jersey comes out with new science Vermont will review it.

But Vose says the state's policies have to be followed when setting safe drinking water standards, and that means relying on the national data.

"So if EPA published an updated toxicity value we would evaluate whether or not to use that value in our equation to change our number," she says.

Along with now having the lowest standard, New Jersey also becomes the first state in the nation to give PFOA its own maximum contaminant level for drinking water.

That means all public water systems now have to be routinely tested for the chemical in New Jersey.

Vermont doesn't have a maximum contaminant level for PFOA.