NY Needs Strong Drinking Water Standards for Dangerous Emerging Contaminants!

Dangerous chemicals known as “emerging contaminants” (PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane) have been discovered in drinking water supplies in communities across New York State, often at levels above federal health guidelines. Regrettably, there is no federally enforceable drinking water standard for these emerging contaminants. This puts our drinking water and health at risk.    

 In absence of federal action, New York State is stepping up and proposing some of the strongest drinking water standards in the nation. We need to ensure that New York uses the latest science to adopt the strongest standards possible in order to protect public health!

 PFOA and PFOS Drinking Water Contamination

PFOA and PFOS are a part of a group of man-made chemicals known as PFAS, which are often referred to as the “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in our environment and bodies. These chemicals are used in firefighting foam, food packaging, and in many water-resistant, stain-proof, and nonstick products. 

PFAS has been detected in numerous water systems in NY, including high-profile cases in Newburgh, Suffolk County, and Hoosick Falls. New York State officials estimate that 23% of public water wells in New York need treatment for PFOA and PFOS. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to higher rates of kidney and testicular cancer, as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.

Case Study of Hoosick Falls, NY:  Surface water samples detected PFAS levels as high as 1,900 ppt. In comparison, the EPA health advisory level for PFAS is 70 ppt.  Blood serum concentrations of PFAS have been found to be 10 times the national average.                              

1,4-Dioxane Drinking Water Contamination

1,4-Dioxane was originally used as an industrial solvent stabilizer found in paints, varnishes, degreasers, and inks. While it has since been phased out of some of these applications, its legacy of pollution continues to plague our water supplies. 1,4-Dioxane is also hidden in many cleaning and personal care products we currently use every day.  CCE recently hired a state certified lab that found 1,4-dioxane in more than 80% of cleaning and personal care products tested, including laundry detergents, baby products, shampoos, body washes, and lotions.

It is estimated that 89 wells across the state need treatment for 1,4-dioxane, although that will likely rise as more testing occurs. 1,4-Dioxane does not easily degrade or break down in the environment and is highly mobile in soil and groundwater. The EPA has designated 1,4-dioxane as a likely human carcinogen.

Case Study of Long Island, NY: Long Island has the highest concentration of 1,4-dioxane water contamination in the nation. A CCE study documented that thirty-nine water districts—representing 75% of Long Island’s population served—had maximum detections above .35 parts per billion (ppb), the EPA health reference standard.

NY Proposes Strong Drinking Water Standards

The NYS Department of Health (DOH) recently proposed a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 1 part per billion (ppb) for 1,4-dioxane and 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS and PFOA. If adopted, New York will have among the most stringent, enforceable drinking water standards for these emerging contaminants in the nation.

The Latest Science Shows NY Could Do Better on PFAS

While the DOH proposal is a big step in the right direction, new science is demonstrating that we can and should do better in order to protect public health.  The NYS DOH should adopt a combined MCL of 2 ppt for PFOA and PFOS.  Recent science is showing that PFOA and PFOS are harmful to human health at very low levels, particularly for infants and children. Furthermore, it is the combined level of PFOA and PFOS in our bodies that is relevant for human health, rather than the level of each contaminant individually. This standard is both

protective of health and technologically feasible in terms of both testing and treatment capability.


The NYS Department of Health is currently holding a 60-day public comment period on the proposed drinking water standards. Please email the Department of Health today and tell them to adopt strong drinking water standards for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane!