Reducing PFAS Exposure
Nearly half of the tap water in the United States is contaminated by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS or forever chemicals. Americans who drink PFAS-contaminated water from the faucet are exposed to an increased risk of illnesses like cancer, thyroid disease, and other hormone-related problems. According to a recent U.S. Geological Survey, people living in urban areas are at the greatest risk of exposure to PFAS in their tap water. In March of this year, the Biden administration, through the U.S. EPA, proposed a regulation bill that would regulate two of the most dangerous forever chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — as individual contaminants and regulate four other PFAS – PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals – as a mixture. However, the EPA has yet to finalize a rule to protect the public from continuing exposure to these harmful chemicals.
For now, however, it appears Americans can protect themselves from exposure to these harmful chemicals, at least in part, by using home water filtration systems. Recent research by the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit activist group concerned with clean water, has confirmed that a number of consumer-available water filtration systems can act as a “Band-Aid” until a more permanent solution to this problem emerges. The EWG tested ten different water filtration systems, including pitcher/large dispenser, faucet-mounted, faucet-integrated, on-counter, and under-sink or whole-house, for 25 different types of PFAS using one water sample for each filter. Most of the water filters contained a granular activated carbon filtration medium, and researchers were surprised by how well some of these filters adequately removed PFAs, with some doing almost as well as the reverse osmosis method of filtration. Still, some of these filtration systems come with hefty price tags, and the EWG remains committed to advocating for laws that get PFAs out of our water so we don’t have to pay even more money to drink it safely.
You can read more about effective water filtration systems here. Beyond water filtration, the EWG also provides additional recommendations to avoid exposure to PFAS, which are also commonly found in a variety of consumer products like nonstick cookware and fast-food containers. These tips include:
- skipping optional stain-repellent treatment on new carpets and furniture;
- reducing fast food and greasy carryout food consumption;
- avoiding fabrics labeled stain- or water-repellent;
- avoiding PTFE-based nonstick pans and kitchen utensils; and
- avoiding microwave popcorn and using the stovetop instead.