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After EPA ruling, PFAS expert says she’s optimistic about long-term solution for PFAS in Kentucky

The Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules this week mandating far lower levels of PFAS, which have links to cancer and other health problems.
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The Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules this week mandating far lower levels of PFAS, which have links to cancer and other health problems.

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl (poly-floro-alkuhl) substances. They’re often referred to as "forever chemicals" because they degrade so slowly. Molly Frazar Lahey is a researcher with a doctorate in chemical engineering whose dissertation at UK involved PFAS research and remediation. She said PFAS are water, oil and fire-resistant.

“That's why they were used in firefighting foams for so long, still are. They've got all those amazing properties, which is why they're using so many different things. You know, your Teflon coated pans, your GORE TEX raincoat, your couch that has like stain resistant fabric on it. All of those things have PFAS.”

According to a statement from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet, fewer than 10 percent of Kentucky’s 400-plus public water systems have tested levels of PFAS higher than the new EPA standard. In the statement, they say they’ll have five years to monitor levels and implement a plan of action – and federal funds from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Act will help some of them take corrective actions.

Meanwhile, Frazar Lahey has advice she offers during every interview about PFAS:

“Whether it's on at your sink, point of use, whether it's a whole house filter, invest in a filtration water filtration system for your house, so that you know, at your home, at least you are drinking, clean, filtered, PFAS-free water.”

Frazar Lahey said while water pitchers with filters aren’t rated for removing PFAS, the carbon in the filters does just that. She said government crackdowns on some PFAS compounds will just lead companies to use others – and there are thousands. That said, she said she’s optimistic.

“I do think there's some amazing research going on right now about not just how to remove you know, PFAS from water but how to degrade it and you know, eventually tried to actually like take these compounds down to elemental form, eliminate them, not just moving them around from one place to another.”

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John McGary is a Lexington native and Navy veteran with three decades of radio, television and newspaper experience.
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