A peer-reviewed study from the Environmental Working Group estimates that more than 200 million Americans could have the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS at 1 part per trillion or ppt or higher in their drinking water. Independent scientific studies have recommended a safe PFAS level in drinking water of 1 ppt, a standard approved by the EEC.
The study, published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, analyzed publicly available drinking water test results from the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Geological Survey, as well as state tests from Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.
"We know that drinking water is a major source of exposure to these toxic chemicals," said Dr. Olga Naidenko, Vice President for Scientific Research at the EWG and co-author of the new study. “This new paper shows that PFAS pollution affects even more Americans than we previously estimated. PFAS are likely to be detectable in all major water supplies in the US, almost certainly in all that use surface water. "
The analysis also included laboratory tests commissioned by the EEC that found PFAS chemicals in the drinking water of dozens of US cities. Some of the highest levels of PFAS recorded were found in samples from large metropolitan areas such as Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and the northern suburbs of New York City, New Jersey.
There is no national requirement for ongoing tests and no national drinking water standard for PFAS in drinking water. The EPA has issued insufficient lifetime health ratings of 70 ppt for two of the most notorious fluorinated chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, and efforts to establish an enforceable standard could take many years.
In the absence of a federal standard, states have begun to push their own legal limits for some PFAS. New Jersey was the first to set a maximum contamination limit for the compound PFNA at 13 ppt, and has set standards of 13 ppt for PFOS and 14 ppt for PFOA. Many states have set or proposed limits for PFOA and PFOS, including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.
"The first step in tackling a contamination crisis is to turn off the tap," said Scott Faber, EEC senior vice president of government affairs. “The second step is to establish a drinking water standard and the third is to clean up the old pollution. The PFAS Action Act passed by parliament would regulate all three steps by setting deadlines for limiting industrial PFAS releases, setting a deadline of two years for a drinking water standard and designating PFAS as "dangerous substances" under the Superfund Act. But Mitch McConnell's Senate has refused to take action to protect our communities from "forever chemicals." "
PFAS are called chemicals forever because they are some of the most persistent toxic compounds around, contaminating everything from drinking water to food to food packaging and personal care products. They are found in the blood of virtually everyone on earth, including newborns. They never break down in the environment.
Very low doses of PFAS chemicals in drinking water have been linked to immune suppression and have been linked to increased risk of cancer and reproductive and developmental damage, among other things.
"When we look for PFAS contamination, we almost always find it," said David Andrews, Ph.D., chief scientist at EWG and one of the co-authors. “Americans should trust their water to be safe, but far too many communities have water supplies that are polluted with toxic PFAS chemicals. These are some of the most insidious chemicals ever made and they continue to be used. Our analysis has been largely limited to PFOA and PFOS, but it has been found that many more PFAS are contaminating drinking water and the whole class of PFAS chemicals is of concern. "
The EPA has identified over 600 PFAS in active use in the United States. According to the most recent analysis of state and state EEC data, 2,230 sites in 49 states have PFAS contamination, including more than 300 military facilities.
The PFAS contamination has raised the alarm among a non-partisan group of lawmakers in Congress. The PFAS Action Act also includes a provision that gives the EPA two years to set a national drinking water standard for the two most notorious PFAS chemicals – PFOA, which was formerly used to make Teflon by DuPont and PFOS, which was formerly an ingredient from was 3M & # 39; s Scotchgard.
The House versions of the National Defense Authorization Act and the EPA Expenditures Act also contain important PFAS reforms.
"It is not too late for this Congress to protect us from the growing PFAS contamination crisis," said Faber.
Environment working group