OCT 15, 2020 8:13 AM PDT

PFAS levels are dangerously high in US drinking water

A study published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters has found toxic levels of PFAS chemicals in the drinking water of over 200 million people in the United States. PFAS chemicals have been shown to be used in a wide range of industries and linked to adverse health effects such as liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.

"We know drinking water is a major source of exposure of these toxic chemicals," said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., vice president for science investigations at EWG and a co-author of the new study. "This new paper shows that PFAS pollution is affecting even more Americans than we previously estimated. PFAS are likely detectable in all major water supplies in the U.S., almost certainly in all that use surface water."

The Environmental Working Group report found PFAS at concentrations of 1 part per trillion or higher; previous studies have recommended a safe level for PFAS in drinking water of 1 ppt, a standard that is endorsed by EWG.

Currently, the US does not have a national requirement for ongoing testing and there is not a PFAS national drinking water standard in drinking water. While the EPA has issued a lifetime health advisory level of 70 ppt for the two most notorious fluorinated chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, this advisory is clearly inadequate without substantive regulation and enforcement. Because of this, some states have passed their own regulations for PFOA and PFOS, including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.

The researchers comment that this is another case of science being turned political. "The first step in fighting any contamination crisis is to turn off the tap," said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs. "The second step is to set a drinking water standard, and the third is to clean up legacy pollution. The PFAS Action Act passed by the House would address all three steps by setting deadlines for limiting industrial PFAS releases, setting a two-year deadline for a drinking water standard, and designating PFAS as 'hazardous substances' under the Superfund law. But Mitch McConnell's Senate has refused to act to protect our communities from 'forever chemicals.'"

Photo: Pixabay

These PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they literally never degrade. Because they contaminate food and drinking water, they have already been documented in almost every living organism that has been tested.

"When we look for PFAS contamination, we almost always find it," said co-author David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. "Americans should trust that their water is safe, but far too many communities have water supplies polluted by toxic PFAS chemicals. These are some of the most insidious chemicals ever produced, and they continue to be used. Our analysis was largely limited to PFOA and PFOS, but many more PFAS are found to contaminate drinking water and the entire class of PFAS chemicals is a concern."

Sources: Environmental Science & Technology Letters, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 18, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
What's all the fuss about diamonds, anyway?
MAY 18, 2021
What's all the fuss about diamonds, anyway?
You might only think of rings and bling when you think of diamonds, but in fact, there are a whole lot more uses for dia ...
JUN 06, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Designing a glue as strong as mussels
JUN 06, 2021
Designing a glue as strong as mussels
A recent study published in the journal Advanced Science describes a novel type of glue inspired by the strong hold ...
JUN 28, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
A full charge in 5 minutes? Sign me up!
JUN 28, 2021
A full charge in 5 minutes? Sign me up!
A breakthrough study published in Nature describes a novel technique that can be used to peek inside lithium-ion batteri ...
AUG 05, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Einstein Was Right, Again: X-rays Observed Behind a Black Hole for the First Time
AUG 05, 2021
Einstein Was Right, Again: X-rays Observed Behind a Black Hole for the First Time
  In an astrophysics first, a team of researchers have directly observed light coming from the backside o ...
AUG 08, 2021
Earth & The Environment
The Surprising Source of Life in the Arctic
AUG 08, 2021
The Surprising Source of Life in the Arctic
According to a new study published in Nature Communications last January, life in the waters of the Arctic Oce ...
AUG 19, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
A "Wright Brothers Moment" for Nuclear Fusion
AUG 19, 2021
A "Wright Brothers Moment" for Nuclear Fusion
According to a Wednesday press release, physicists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), part of Lawrence Livermore N ...
Loading Comments...