News Feature | August 12, 2016

Study Finds That Millions Of Americans Get Water From PFAS-Laced Sources

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

factories.reg

The level of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in drinking water sources exceeds federal safety limits in supplies serving millions of U.S. residents.

A study published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters examined the level of PFASs in public water supplies. It noted that the chemicals tend to be found near industrial sites that manufacture the compounds, near military fire training areas, and near wastewater treatment plants. The researchers “examined more than 36,000 water samples collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency between 2013 and 2015,” CNN reported.

The results show widespread PFAS contamination in drinking water supplies. “We find drinking water supplies for 6 million U.S. residents exceed U.S. EPA’s lifetime health advisory (70 ng/L) for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA),” the study said.

The researchers pinpointed 66 public water supplies that had “at least one water sample that measured at or above the EPA recommended safety limit of 70 parts per trillion” for PFOS or PFOA, CNN reported.

Nearly 17 million U.S. residents had PFASs in their water at or above the maximum EPA limit, CNN reported. Supplies in Delaware and Pennsylvania had particularly high levels.

“Though 194 public water supplies with higher-than-recommended chemical concentrations are located in 33 states, three-quarters of the toxic water supplies are in just 13 states: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois,” the report said.

Xindi Hu, the author of the study, called for more research on PFASs, noting that some data is still unavailable.

“Hu pointed out that the issue of PFAS chemicals in the drinking water supply may be even more widespread than their study detected, because ‘a third of the country doesn't have data.’ That's about 100 million people,” CBS News reported.

The EPA declined to comment on this specific research, according to CNN. The agency noted that various major manufacturers of PFASs have phased out production of the compounds.

The EPA issued a health advisory in May about PFAS exposure as various cities wage high-profile battles against the compounds, including Hoosick Falls, NY, and factory towns across the country. PFASs are industrial chemicals, and research has tied them to cancer, the Associated Press reported.

The EPA acknowledges the health risk posed by these compounds, noting that research indicates exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels “may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes),” according to the agency’s health advisory.

To read more about contaminant presence that exceeds federal guidelines visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.

Image credit: "bellowing steel," dave hosford © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/