A new study published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University found highly fluorinated toxic chemicals, known as PFCs, in the drinking water of 15 million Americans across 27 states. The study measured the levels of two PFCs in particular, PFOS and PFOA, which are used in the manufacture of non-stick, stain-resistant, and water-proofing coatings on fabric, cookware, firefighting foam, and other consumer products.
PFCs are not regulated. Instead, they were tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 2013 and 2015 as part of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. In May 2016, the EPA issued a new drinking water lifetime health advisory for PFOS and PFOA of 70 parts per trillion. It warned that exposure to elevated levels of these compounds, which accumulate over one’s lifetime, can lead to a number of health problems including testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertensions.
According to the study, sources of the contamination include military bases, airports, industrial facilities, and civilian firefighting stations. Industrial sites operated by corporations like 3M and DuPont have been sued for discharging these chemicals into bodies of water that serve as the water supply for communities. Contamination from military bases, airports, and firefighting stations has been attributed to the use of aqueous film forming foam, which was used as an effective fire suppressant to combat fuel fires.
Although the report sheds much needed light on this problem, it is limited by the EPA testing, which only included water systems serving more than 10,000 people. Thus, the extent of the contamination of smaller water systems and private wells is unknown unless those parties conducted their own testing. Fortunately, more communities have become aware and are testing their supplies to ensure the safety of their drinking water.
Source: Environmental Working Group, ewg.org
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