Nearly half of US drinking water may contain toxic ‘forever chemicals’

Nearly half of US drinking water may contain toxic ‘forever chemicals’

A new study has found that nearly half of tap water samples in the United States contain toxic “forever chemicals.” These chemicals, known as PFAS, are used in a wide range of household items and can pose serious health risks. The study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), tested tap water samples from over 700 locations across the country. It revealed that at least one synthetic chemical was detected in 45% of the samples, exceeding benchmarks and proposed regulations.

PFAS are substances that are resistant to water and do not break down in the environment or in the human body. They were first developed in the 1940s and are now used in various products, including cookware coatings and clothing. Previous studies have focused on measuring PFAS in groundwater, reservoirs, and water treatment plants. However, analyzing tap water provides a more accurate assessment of what people are actually consuming.

Exposure to high levels of PFAS can have detrimental effects on health. It can disrupt hormones, impair liver function, increase the risk of cancer, affect birth weight in infants, and compromise the health of pregnant women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although there are thousands of known types of PFAS, the study focused on testing for 32 types. The samples were collected from public water supplies and private wells between 2016 and 2021. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in PFAS exposure between samples from private wells and the public supply. This finding challenges the assumption that private wells may be safer than public water supplies, as the latter are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study also revealed that people in urban areas are at a higher risk of PFAS exposure in drinking water compared to those in rural areas. This highlights the need for comprehensive monitoring and regulation of PFAS in public water systems.

In response to the growing concern over PFAS contamination, the EPA proposed the first-ever national drinking water standard for six PFAS in March. This standard would require monitoring of public water systems and disclosure when PFAS levels exceed the limits. Additionally, the Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated nearly $10 billion to help communities reduce PFAS and other chemical contaminants.

The findings of this study emphasize the urgent need for stricter regulations and monitoring of PFAS in drinking water. The health risks associated with these “forever chemicals” cannot be ignored, and steps must be taken to ensure the safety of the public water supply.

Reporting by Rachel Nostrant; Editing by Nancy Lapid and Howard Goller

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