Potentially Harmful PFAS Chemicals in Almost Half of U.S. Tap Water.

Study Reveals Potentially Harmful PFAS Chemicals in Almost Half of U.S. Tap Water.

July 06, 2023: A recent government study has shown that nearly 45% of tap water in the United States contains “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, linked to cancer and other health issues. These synthetic compounds, found in everything from nonstick pans to food packaging, are contaminating drinking water across the country, affecting both large cities and small towns, as well as private wells and public systems, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

This comprehensive study, the first of its kind, tested tap water from private and regulated sources, providing valuable insights into the widespread presence of PFAS. The USGS report does not make specific policy recommendations but offers crucial information for evaluating exposure risks and making water treatment and testing decisions. Lead author Kelly Smalling, a research hydrologist, suggests that individuals should consider testing their drinking water and seeking further information from their state to address the situation locally.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed drinking water limits on six forms of PFAS earlier this year, the government has yet to prohibit companies from releasing these chemicals into public wastewater systems. Environmental advocacy groups argue that addressing the issue at its source by requiring polluters to treat their own wastes is essential rather than implementing measures after the fact.

Studies on lab animals have suggested potential links between PFAS chemicals and various health problems, including cancer, high blood pressure, and low birth weight. Federal and state programs typically monitor exposure to pollutants like PFAS at water treatment plants or groundwater wells. In contrast, the USGS study analyzed samples from taps in 716 locations, including public supplies and private wells. The study detected 32 PFAS compounds, with PFBS, PFHxS, and PFOA being the most frequently found.

The study reveals that the heaviest PFAS exposures occur in urban areas near potential sources of contamination, such as industrial sites and waste facilities, particularly in regions like the Eastern Seaboard, Great Lakes, and Great Plains, as well as Central and Southern California. While rural areas generally had fewer instances of PFAS detection, researchers estimated that at least one form of PFAS could be found in approximately 45% of tap water samples nationwide.

To mitigate the risks associated with PFAS in tap water, private well users should have their water tested and consider installing filters with activated carbon or reverse osmosis membranes, which can effectively remove these chemicals. The study highlights the pervasiveness of PFAS and emphasizes the vulnerability of individuals relying on private wells, underscoring the need for continued efforts to address and manage these harmful chemicals.


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