Report: ⅓ Of Americans Are Drinking Water Tainted By ‘Forever Chemicals'
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that the contamination of U.S. drinking water with “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated, according to Reuters.
“Forever chemicals” are known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals) and are resistant to breaking down in the environment. They are used in a variety of industrial products and have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight, and other health problems.
The EWG’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, was that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS. However, their recent findings suggest that number could be far too low.
“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report.
The EWG took tap water samples from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., and found that only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle, Washington and Tuscaloosa, Alabam had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.
An average of six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are not fully understood. Contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies in 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS.
The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, but has not provided a timeline.
A 2018 draft report from an office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the risk level for exposure to the chemicals should be up to 10 times lower than the 70 PPT threshold the EPA recommends. The White House and the EPA attempted to stop the report from being published.