forever chemicals

The Guardian's August 17 headline, “Drinking Water of Millions of Americans Contaminated with Forever Chemicals”, was based on newly released data from EPA’s Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. Contrary to the headlines blasted in the media, the actual data from this rule shows that Americans have nothing to fear from these chemicals.
“Eating one bass is equivalent to drinking PFOS-tainted water for a month.” Those are the words of Scott Faber, senior VP for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. That is the message of a study by the EWG, carefully crafted to instill fear and drive regulatory science. It requires a carefully crafted response – here is mine.
As a relative newbie to the world of science writing to the public, I want to thank ACSH for letting me write about my favorite subject – science and health. Two articles from the last year have special meaning to me.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of making a remarkable decision and one that will have repercussions throughout the US.  Its proposed safe levels in water for the “forever” chemicals perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and its sulfonic acid (PFOS) are at extraordinary odds with other national authorities. 
A paper in the journal Science describes a new method for breaking down forever chemicals (PFAS), which, as their name implies are not so easy to destroy. Can this method be used to remove traces of these chemicals from our water? Or for anything else?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is once again warning consumers that their food may be tainted by "forever chemicals." Let's take a look at all the important details the activist group left out.
For regulatory science, from Covid-19 to environmental regulations, today’s mantra is to “follow the science.” If only we had more and better science, they exclaim, we would know the correct answers and better protect public health. But “more” and “better science” often result in the opposite effect – i.e., less protection of public health. By trying to do “perfect science,” we often get in the way of good results in the protection of public health.
Perfluorooctanoate is a simple 8-member carbon molecule that has fluorine, rather than hydrogen, atoms. The result is a chemical that resembles simple forms of fat that occur naturally in our bodies – but does not break down significantly.