Drinking water across the United States is heavily contaminated with fluorinated ‘forever chemicals’ at levels far higher than previously thought, according to a new study.
A wide variety of mainstream news outlets have cited a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which found concentrations of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contaminants in water supplies at all but one out of 44 locations tested.
“New laboratory tests commissioned by EWG have for the first time found the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in the drinking water of dozens of U.S. cities, including major metropolitan areas,” the report states.
“The results confirm that the number of Americans exposed to PFAS from contaminated tap water has been dramatically underestimated by previous studies, both from the Environmental Protection Agency and EWG’s own research.”
“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said senior EWG scientist David Andrews, who co-authored the study.
“Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals.”
PFAS are also called ‘forever chemicals’ because many do not break down in the environment, instead building up in the blood and organs over time.
PFAS exposure has been linked to cancer, low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, and thyroid hormone disruption, according the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The EPA was first alerted to the problem of PFAS in drinking water in 2001 but in almost 20 years has failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit,” EWG notes.
“In 2016, the agency issued a non-enforceable lifetime health advisory for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water of 70 ppt [parts per trillion]. Independent scientific studies have recommended a safe level for PFAS in drinking water of 1 ppt, which is endorsed by EWG.”
In EWG’s testing, conducted at 44 places in 31 states and Washington D.C., levels at only four sites fell at or below EWG’s recommended limit of 1 ppt, with the rest ranging as high as 186 ppt.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently issued an advisory urging pregnant or nursing mothers and infants to avoid drinking bottled water products from sources known to contain high levels of PFAS.
EWG recommends readers consider in-home water filtration systems to remove possible fluorinated contaminants.
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