Long-awaited report on water contaminants released by HHS

A government report found the "minimal risk levels" for oral exposure to PFOS and PFOA are lower than the threshold recommended by the EPA.

Story highlights

  • White House official warned that report could be a "potential public relations nightmare"
  • It says the "minimal risk levels" for exposure to two chemicals are much lower than EPA's recommendations

(CNN)A long-awaited government study on the toxicity levels chemicals commonly used in manufacturing was made public on Wednesday, months after a White House official warned that it could be a "potential public relations nightmare."

The 800-plus-page draft report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, indicates that the "minimal risk levels" for oral exposure to two chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA are lower than the threshold currently recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's levels are 10 and 6.7 times higher, respectively.
    These chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances or PFASs, have been linked to a variety of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression and cancer.
    "I think that people should be concerned about the amount of PFOA and PFOS that is in our environment," Susan M. Pinney, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, wrote in an email. "These are chemicals with long half-lives," meaning they persist in the environment as well as the body.
    "Exposure in utero may have the greatest effect on developing children ... and effects may last into adulthood," she said, adding that the science is still early.