Toxic 'forever chemicals' are contaminating drinking water in US at levels far worse than previously estimated

These chemicals have been linked to cancer, liver damage, low birth weight, and other health problems


                            Toxic 'forever chemicals' are contaminating drinking water in US at levels far worse than previously estimated
(Getty Images)

US drinking water is contaminated with man-made “forever chemicals”, with Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans showing the highest levels. Previous studies have undereported the scale of the problem and the number of Americans exposed to this toxic chemical is far worse than thought.

These findings are a part of a report released by an environmental watchdog group called the Environmental Working Group (EWG). In 2018, based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the group found that nearly 110 million Americans were exposed to PFAS -- a number which, according to their recent report, was far too low. 

“We do not know how long these communities have been drinking PFAS-contaminated water, but we do know that these chemicals have been used and discharged all across the country for years,” said EWG president and co-founder Ken Cook. 

This toxic chemical called perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they linger in the environment for a really long time, while also building up in our blood and organs. They have been linked to cancer, liver damage, low birth weight, and other health problems.

This chemical is everywhere: from nonstick cookware, to clothes and carpets that are made resistant to stains, and firefighting foam. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAS is present in the blood of nearly all Americans.

“It is nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report.

Only one location --Meridian, Mississippi --had no detectable PFAS. (Getty Images)

In their current report, Andrews and his colleagues tested tap water samples from 44 places in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Of these places, only one location --Meridian, Mississippi --had no detectable PFAS, and only two other locations -- Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama -- had PFAS below the level that independent studies show pose risks to human health.

This report tested for 30 such chemicals, instead of the two most common ones tested earlier. On average, they found six to seven PFAS compounds at the tested sites, says the report.

"PFAS contamination is a nationwide issue that is much bigger than the EPA has reported," said Andrea Amico, co-founder, Testing for Pease, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She explained that regulating PFAS as a class can help prevent additional exposure and harm to innocent communities.

She added: "And we must make polluters pay for the cost of clean up, access to clean water, blood testing, health studies, medical monitoring, and the damages suffered by communities who had no choice in drinking contaminated water with forever chemicals.”

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