More than 6 million Americans are drinking water tainted with unsafe levels of a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked to cancer and other serious health problems, a new study by Harvard University researchers has revealed.
The authors of the study found that levels of chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, in public drinking water often exceed safety levels recommended by the federal government.
For decades, PFASs have been used in industrial and commercial products such as nonstick cookware, food wrappers, firefighting foam and for stain-proofing furniture. Long-term exposure to these chemicals has been associated with an increased risk of cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol and obesity.
Tap water from all over the U.S. is contaminated with heavy metals and toxins. Therefore, people should avoid drinking tap water unless it is filtered.
Millions of Americans at risk
Xindi Hu, the study's lead author, and colleagues examined 36,000 drinking water samples collected nationwide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 2013 and 2015. They screened the samples for the presence of six types of PFASs.
Furthermore, they took a closer look at sites where the chemicals are commonly used. These sites included industrial plants that use or manufacture PFASs, military bases and civilian airports that use PFAS-containing firefighting foam, as well as wastewater treatment plants.
The researchers noted that discharges from these plants could contaminate groundwater as there is no standard method available to remove PFASs from wastewater. Also, the sludge that these plants generate is often used as a fertilizer and could contaminate groundwater too.
Xindi Hu and her team found detectable levels of PFASs in 194 out of 4,864 water supplies in 33 states across the U.S. Of those water supplies, 66 serving about 6 million people had at least one sample that exceeded the EPA's safety limit of 70 parts of PFASs per trillion (ng/L).
However, Xindi Hu noted that the actual number of exposed people may be even higher than 6 million, because government data for PFAS levels in drinking water is not available for almost a third of the U.S. population, or about 100 million people.
States where the highest levels were recorded include California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois.
Unsurprisingly, the highest levels of PFAS contamination were detected near industrial sites, military bases and wastewater treatment plants.
In light of the recent events in Flint, Michigan, where almost 12,000 children were exposed to lead from old water pipes leaking into drinking water, researchers once again fear for the public's health.
According to Elsie Sunderland, senior author of the study and associate professor at the Harvard Chan School, PFASs are potent immunotoxicants in children, and recent studies suggest that drinking water safety levels should be much lower than what the EPA recommends.
Test your water supply
Unless you have your water tested, there is no way to know whether or not you are exposing your family to high levels of toxins through drinking tap water. Even if you have your own well, increased fracking activity or the use of PFAS-containing products near your home may contaminate the groundwater you are relying on.
CWC Labs is an internationally accredited and trusted laboratory that provides water and soil testing services via sampling kits available online.
Mike Adams, who directs the scientific analysis of all water and soil samples, recently explained why you can put your trust in CWC labs:
"The citizens of America no longer trust cities to provide them with safe, clean water. Our private testing service allows water consumers to get their water tested from a trusted, accredited, independent science lab that can't be influenced by local city politics."
For more information about CWC Labs, visit: CWCLabs.com
Sources for this article include: