“Forever Chemical” Contamination Found in Nearly Half of the Nation’s Tap Water
A recent national study from the U.S. Geological Survey confirms that nearly half of the tap water in the United States has at least one type of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance or PFAS. Commonly called “forever chemicals,” these chemicals are commonly used in consumer products like nonstick cookware and fast-food boxes, and they have been linked to human illnesses like cancer, low birth weight, and thyroid disease. There are more than 12,000 types of PFAS, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The study found that concentrations of PFAS were similar between public supplies and private wells and showed that Americans living in urban areas are most at risk, with a 75% likelihood of PFAS being detected in water in urban areas and a 25% chance the chemicals will be found in water in rural areas. The study shows PFAS were more frequently found in urban areas in the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central and Southern California.
In comparing the levels found in the areas studied with interim health advisories released by the EPA last year, PFOS and PFOA were exceeded in every sample in which they were detected. The most frequently detected compounds were PFBS, PFHxS, and PFOA.
Earlier this year, the U.S. EPA announced an effort to restrict and regulate PFAS in food and drinking water to improve public health. The group proposed a federal law to require companies to disclose whether they use forever chemicals in their products. The proposal also includes capping PFOA and PFOS, two types of forever chemicals that the EPA has determined have no safe level of exposure, at four parts per trillion. The agency plans to release a finalized regulation by the end of the year. As this study confirms, these regulations cannot come soon enough.