Study Reveals Widespread Contamination of US Tap Water with “Forever Chemicals”

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According to the US Geological Survey and as reported by CNN, per and polyfluorinated alkyl compounds (PFAS), sometimes known as “forever chemicals,” have been identified in more than 50% of all tap water in the United States. However, because only a subset of PFAS chemicals were studied, the real number of persons eating contaminated water may be larger than stated in the article. The NIH has identified roughly 12,000 distinct PFAS, but only 32 were included in this study.  

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are compounds made by humans that remain in the environment and the human body. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS exposure has been related to cancer, obesity, thyroid illness, high cholesterol, reproductive disorders, liver damage, and hormone disruption. Recognizing that these chemicals are far more dangerous to human health than previously thought, even at considerably lower levels of exposure, the EPA issued new health guidelines in June 2022.  

Because of the chemicals’ complexity and wide range of usage across time, it is difficult to identify health impacts from PFAS exposure. Nonetheless, people must be conscious of their vulnerability to sickness caused by polluted water. Although water filters can help minimize contamination, steps are being done in the United States to remove PFAS chemicals from public water systems.  

The findings of this study, which were published in Environmental International, give vital new information on the possibility of drinking water pollution from municipal supplies. This is the most thorough research of its sort to date since it incorporates data from both private wells and communal water systems.

Between 2016 and 2021, researchers collected drinking water samples from 269 private wells and 447 public sources. Their research of water samples from the United States finds that PFAS chemicals are detected in 46% of those tested. Water sources were more likely to be contaminated in metropolitan regions and locations with a history of PFAS manufacturing and waste disposal, such as industrial districts.  

PFAS have been discovered in a wide range of daily goods, including carpets and clothes, food packaging, mobile phones, aircraft, and even rainfall. According to a 2019 research, 98% of the US population has been exposed to PFAS chemicals. While 45% contamination may appear low, it has been explained by households’ use of efficient filtering equipment and water utilities’ attempts to eliminate PFAS.  

Looking at the most recent water report from their water supplier may provide the most information on the composition of their water and the efforts made to limit the presence of pollutants. Although carbon filters help, they rapidly get depleted and must be refilled. Reverse osmosis is an alternative, but more costly, filtration technology.  

The EPA has recommended countrywide restrictions on six PFAS compounds in drinking water that are so low that detection will be difficult, if not impossible. Water utilities will need to analyze the dangers presented by PFAS before implementing these limits, and treatment systems or the investigation of alternate water sources may be required.  

Dr. Graham Peaslee, a PFAS expert at the University of Notre Dame, believes the chemicals should be eliminated promptly due to the risk they pose to human health. He acknowledges that this is one of the world’s most expensive environmental concerns and that tackling it will not be easy or inexpensive. However, action must be taken since PFAS pollution is a big concern and everyone should have access to safe drinking water. 

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