“Forever Chemicals” Have Been Found in Almost Half of the Tap Water in the U.S

According to recent studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, at least 45 percent of public water systems in the country have “forever chemicals” in them.

Why it matters: These synthetic substances, known collectively as PFAS, have been associated to negative health effects, such as an increased risk of cancer, in both humans and animals when exposed at high enough concentrations.

“Millions of people have been drinking a toxic forever chemical linked to cancer all their lives and are only discovering it today,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday.

What they did:  The USGS study collected water samples from over 700 places across the United States over a five-year period, testing for the presence of 32 different types of these exceptionally durable compounds.

You can read more about the federal study that found “forever chemicals” in nearly half of America’s drinking water in the tweet below:

According to a statement released with the study on Wednesday, USGS research hydrologist and study lead author Kelly Smalling said, “USGS scientists tested water collected directly from people’s kitchen sinks across the nation, providing the most comprehensive study to date on PFAS in tap water from both private wells and public supplies.”

What they found: According to the study, Smalling stated, “at least one type of PFAS — of those that were monitored — could be present in nearly half of the tap water in the U.S.” It was found that “PFAS concentrations were similar between public supplies and private wells.”

The tainted water was found primarily in urban water supplies. According to the report, the areas of the United States most at risk are the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the East Coast, and Central and Southern California.

Forever Chemicals Have Been Found in Almost Half of the Tap Water in the U.S

Of note: The study expands on earlier research that found these compounds have far-reaching consequences due to their ubiquitous use in nonstick cookware, water-repellent food packaging, and fireproof materials.

Last year, the EPA issued a health statement warning that some varieties of per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds were more harmful than previously anticipated due to new scientific evidence.

For the record: Over 12,000 unique PFAS exist, and not all of them can be identified using existing methods.

Here are some resources that can help you stay up of current events in California:

What they’re saying: East Carolina University pharmacology and toxicology professor Jamie DeWitt told CNN he wasn’t surprised to see that PFAS had been found in such large quantities in drinking water by USGS scientists.

  • He also said, “There has been almost nowhere scientists have looked where PFAS has not been found.”
  • According to WashPost, Harvard environmental chemistry professor Elsie Sunderland called the results “alarming,” but added, “I would be careful in extrapolating that conclusion to the entire country” due to the tiny sample size.

What we’re watching: The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever federal regulations to mandate the pre-treatment of drinking water for PFAS.

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