A newly-released study and supplementary map show that 15 million Americans are exposed to toxins in their drinking water. The study, released in early June as a collaboration with the Environmental Working Group and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University, revealed that the issue is present in 27 states across the country.
The study focused on drinking water contaminated by particular types of perfluorochemicals also called PFCs. According to a publication from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, PFCs are a “large group of manufactured compounds” that are primarily used to make surfaces resist stains, water, and grease.
PFCs are largely found in products including stain-resistant carpeting, non-stick cookware, firefighting equipment, and food packaging. The National Institutes of Health notes that PFCs are slow to disintegrate and that some PFCs take years to leave the body.
According to EWG:
The map focuses on the most well-studied fluorinated compounds – perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard. Because of their nonstick, waterproof and grease-repellent properties, these and closely related chemicals were used in hundreds of consumer products and industrial applications, including cookware, outdoor clothing, food packaging and firefighting foam. The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention have found PFOA or PFOS in the bodies of virtually all Americans, and these chemicals can be passed through the umbilical cord from mother to fetus in the womb.
EWG’s study added that federal enforcement to minimize levels of long-chain PFCs do not exist, and “there is no ongoing national-level testing of PFCs in drinking water.” The EPA has set health advisories for PFOA and PFOS.
An earlier study, conducted by Harvard University in 2016, illustrated similar numbers regarding the presence of the chemicals in the United States’ water supply. The Harvard study found PFASs in water supplies in 33 states serving over 16 million people. That study showed that “66 water supplies serving 6 million people had at least one water sample at or above the EPA’s safety limits,” according to PBS.
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