Equuleus42 (Slashdot reader #723) shares the Washington Post’s article on “the latest evidence of the pervasiveness of ‘forever chemicals’.”
A new study from the United States Geological Survey estimates that these 12,000 “PFAS” contaminants “taint nearly half” of America’s tap water:
Studies are steadily documenting the ubiquity of this class of chemicals. A 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found PFAS in the blood of over 95 percent of Americans. Exposure to PFAS has been associated with severe health risks, including some kinds of cancers, developmental delays in children and reproductive effects in pregnant people, although the Environmental Protection Agency states that “research is still ongoing to determine how different levels of exposure to different PFAS can lead to a variety of health effects…”
The researchers more frequently detected PFAS in urban areas or places next to potential sources of the chemicals such as airports, industry and wastewater treatment plants, said USGS research hydrologist Kelly Smalling, the study’s lead author. Smalling estimated that about 75 percent of urban tap water has at least one type of PFAS present, compared with about 25 percent of rural tap water. The chemicals were also more prevalent in the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard and central and Southern California regions, according to the study.
Smalling even tested the water in their own home in New Jersey — and found that it, too, was contaminated. “It’s not a surprise,” Smalling said, describing New Jersey as “a hot spot for PFAS.”
The article also notes that in March America’s Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first drinking standard for PFAS in drinking water (though final rules may not arrive before next year). And 3M is paying a $10.3 billion settlement over 13 years for testing for and cleaning up PFAS in water supplies. “States are also stepping up action on PFAS, including through legislation banning or restricting the use of PFAS in everyday products and implementing drinking water standards…”
But Carmen Messerlian, an assistant Harvard professor of environmental epidemiology, argues for regulating companies that produce forever chemicals, since “By the time they hit our water, our food, our children’s mouths and our bodies, it really is too late…” In the meantime, consumers can buy water filters that remove PFAS, “though the most effective filters can come at a cost that not everyone can afford, Messerlian said.”