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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first limitations on a set of pervasive and dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ in US drinking water. The chemicals, known for their strong carbon–fluorine bonds, are difficult to destroy and have become widely dispersed in the environment. Scientists and engineers are busy developing ways to extract the chemicals more efficiently from water and soil and break them down, but water utility companies warn that meeting the EPA’s new standards will be expensive in the short term — possibly prohibitively so for small water-treatment facilities.