Around 45% of U.S. tap water could be contaminated with at least one form of PFAS (“forever chemicals”), a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests.
The Big Picture: The study highlights the widespread presence of man-made ‘forever chemicals’ in tap water throughout the country.
* PFAS are found in many places, from nonstick cookware to contaminated food and water sources and build up in people and the environment over time.
* Linked to adverse health effects, such as increased risk of certain cancers, obesity, high cholesterol, decreased fertility and developmental impacts like low birth weight.
* The study is the first to compare PFAS in tap water from both public and private supplies on a national scale.
Methodology and Results: The study collected water samples from more than 700 locations over a five-year period.
* The samples were gathered from 716 residences, businesses, and drinking-water treatment plants, which included protected, rural and urban areas all across the U.S.
* PFAS concentrations were found to be similar between public supplies and private wells.
* More PFAS were found in urban areas and near potential sources of PFAS, such as airports and wastewater treatment plants.
Regional Findings: The study also suggests geographical variations in the likelihood of PFAS exposure.
* There’s a 75% chance that PFAS will be found in urban areas and a 25% chance in rural areas, with potential hotspots in the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central/Southern California.
Alongside Concerns: The USGS’s findings underline the importance of further risk assessments alongside actions for mitigating PFAS exposure.
* The research is ongoing with an emphasis on private well users and rural communities.
* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued drinking water health advisories for two prevalent PFAS compounds stating they pose health risks even at levels so low that the government can’t detect them.
* Current federal efforts aim to set the first federal drinking water limits on six forms of PFAS, potentially reducing PFAS exposure for approximately 100 million Americans.
* These proposed rules would require costly testing, mitigation work, and transparency in results for the water systems.
* As per the EPA, in case of concerns, people should reach out to their local health officials about testing or treatment and could consider installing specific kinds of water filters to reduce PFAS levels.
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