The chemicals called per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been used in a variety of non-stick and waterproof products since the 1950s.
Since then, they’ve contaminated several drinking water systems throughout the country, including in Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire.
They also have been linked to certain illnesses, like cancer and thyroid disease.
Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have enforceable standards for PFAS in drinking water, and according to a report by POLITICO, EPA doesn’t plan on setting legal limits.
"It’s the role of the EPA to do these things and when they don’t do it, then the states are almost paralyzed because they’re not in the position to litigate a critical scientific question," Jack Reed, Rhode Island U.S. Senator, said.
Reed, along with 19 other U.S. senators from states including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, recently sent a letter to EPA in response to POLITICO's report urging the agency to act.
In 2016, EPA set a non-binding health advisory that limits PFAS in drinking water to 70 parts per trillion, which is equivalent to 70 grains of sand in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
However, Reed said the advisory might not be good enough.
"That (number) might be much too high, so that they have to take a new look at the most recent scientific evidence and determine what is the safe level," he said.
EPA did not respond to requests for comment.