The presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water has become a significant concern for consumers and water providers across the United States. PFAS are a class of synthetic chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and stains, making them widely used in various consumer and industrial products. However, their persistence in the environment and potential human health risks have raised alarms among researchers and public health officials. According to an interactive map released earlier this month by a nonprofit environmental advocacy group called the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are more than 3,000 sites throughout the U.S., the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories that have public or private water systems tainted with PFAS. Dubbed “forever chemicals,” since they are known to build up in the environment and human body, PFAS can cause a number of serious health risks for Americans.
PFAS contamination in drinking water has been a pervasive issue in the U.S., affecting both public water supplies and private wells nationwide. Recent studies, including one conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), have revealed that nearly half of the tap water in the U.S. is contaminated with PFAS chemicals. The USGS study examined 32 compounds out of over 12,000 types of PFAS, indicating that the actual contamination levels might be even higher than what the study found.
PFAS are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” due to their resistance to degradation in the environment. They can persist in water sources for long periods, making them difficult to remove through conventional water treatment processes. The presence of PFAS in drinking water primarily stems from industrial and manufacturing activities, landfills, and areas where PFAS-based firefighting foam, known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), has been used.
Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a range of adverse health effects, including increased risks of cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, decreased fertility, and hormone suppression. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized the potential harm caused by PFAS and has issued health advisories to address the risks associated with specific PFAS compounds.
However, the full extent of health effects and safe exposure levels for each PFAS compound are still being studied. The complex nature of PFAS chemicals and the variety of exposure routes make it challenging to determine precise health risks. Ongoing research aims to understand the interaction between different PFAS compounds and their cumulative effects on human health.
The USGS study provided valuable insights into the geographical distribution of PFAS contamination in drinking water. The highest concentrations of PFAS were found in water sources near urban areas and regions with significant PFAS-related activities, such as manufacturing and waste collection. The Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central/Southern California were identified as areas with particularly elevated levels of PFAS contamination.
To provide a comprehensive visual representation of PFAS contamination in the U.S., the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created an interactive map highlighting more than 3,000 sites nationwide with toxic chemicals in their water systems. This map serves as a valuable resource for individuals and communities to assess the potential risks associated with their drinking water sources.
Recognizing the severity of PFAS contamination of drinking water sources, government agencies, researchers, and advocacy groups are taking steps to mitigate the issue. The EPA has been working to develop a national primary drinking water standard for PFAS compounds, focusing on the most well-studied PFAS, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). These compounds have been associated with adverse health effects and their use is being phased out in the U.S. State governments have also been proactive in addressing PFAS contamination in drinking water sources. Many states have enacted limits for PFAS in drinking water, surface water, and groundwater, based on different health effects and scientific research. Additionally, there have been efforts to regulate PFAS as a class, considering their common adverse health effects and cumulative risks.
PFAS contamination in drinking water is a pressing issue that demands attention from both individuals and regulatory bodies. The widespread presence of PFAS chemicals and their potential health risks necessitate comprehensive efforts to regulate and remediate contaminated water sources. Ongoing research and collaboration among scientists, government agencies, and advocacy groups are crucial to further understanding the health effects of PFAS and implementing effective strategies to address this growing concern. To learn more about the potential side effects of exposure to PFAS, or to discuss with an experienced attorney the possibility of pursuing a lawsuit against the company or companies responsible for your PFAS exposure, contact Consumer Safety Watch today. We can help put you in touch with an attorney who has experience handling PFAS exposure claims.