TCP is one of more than a dozen unregulated contaminants that have been found in the country's drinking water. During the past decade, regulators have identified at least one of these substances at levels that could impact human health in the tap water of 61 million people, according to a ProPublica analysis of EPA data. Nearly 16 million of these people were exposed to potentially dangerous levels of possible or likely carcinogens, including TCP. And over the past 25 years, the agency has identified more than a hundred other water contaminants, including industrial and agricultural chemicals and microorganisms, that may present risks to humans. The potential health effects of these substances include developmental delays, reproductive issues and cancer.
Experts and activists say this demonstrates fundamental shortcomings in the country's approach to environmental threats. The Safe Drinking Water Act, designed to protect the nation's water quality, requires an extensive, multistep process before adopting new standards. Critics say the EPA has struggled to move contaminants that have been on its radar for a decade or more through this process in a timely fashion.
The EPA's inaction on these chemicals "just illustrates how broken the system is," said Erik D. Olson, a lawyer who worked at the EPA during the Reagan administration and is now senior strategic director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. "The law really is incredibly cumbersome and difficult, and there's just a lack of political will to regulate a lot of these things."
The purpose of the EPA is to protect human health as well as the environment. The EPA needs to set safety limits on TCP, PCBs, PFAs, cyanide, and other contaminants that are harmful to our health. We the undersigned demand immediate action, as well as strict enforcement of clean water regulations.