- The Environmental Working Group analyzed the EPA database of PFASs, man-made chemicals often added to common household products
- PFAS never breaks down and in some cases are associated with health problems
- Water sources most at risk of contamination were near landfills, wastewater treatment plants and petroleum refineries.
- The group argues that any level of PFAS above 1 part per trillion is not safe.
- It is urging the EPA to take a stronger stance on limiting these chemicals.
Scientists have found nearly 42,000 potential sources of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ on surface and drinking water in communities across the US, mostly from landfills and wastewater treatment plants.
Researchers from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an anti-pollution activist organization, scanned public data in the EPA’s enforcement and compliance history database to find potential sources of contamination of PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, in the water supplies of various communities. Can go
PFAS are man-made chemicals often added to common household products — including cookware, carpets, clothing, personal care products and food packaging — to make them water- and oil-repellent.
They never break down in the environment and are associated with health problems in substantial amounts.
In a report published in American Water Works Association Water Science JournalIn this study, the group found that water sources most at risk of contamination were near landfills, wastewater treatment plants, petroleum refineries, airports and electroplating sites, and metal finishers.
EWG senior scientist David Andrews said, ‘It is important that the EPA now begins to regulate PFAS.’ said in a statement. ‘Every community in the US is likely to be affected by PFAS contamination, but those living near or near industrial facilities may be at greater risk.
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A chart of sites the Environmental Working Group found with PFAS. Sites in Maroon have National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits indicating direct discharge to surface water regulated under the Clean Water Act.
Under the Biden administration, the EPA has proposed regulating some industrial discharges of PFAS into drinking water, but the EWG says the plan is ‘less than what is needed to eliminate pollution flowing from companies’ .’
In March, EWG began testing tap water in Northern Virginia, which revealed PFAS contamination at “significantly higher” levels in the D.C. metro area than previously thought, according to a release.
EWG analysis from 2020 PFAS chemicals were found in the drinking water of dozens of US cities, with some of the highest levels in the northern New Jersey suburbs of Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York City.
A 2019 EWG study of water systems in 74 California communities found PFAs in the drinking water used by 7.5 million residents.
Maps showing common sites of ‘forever chemical’ pollution across the US, including landfills, wastewater treatment plants, airports and electroplating and metal-finishing facilities
Scientists found 40 percent of samples taken from water systems exceeded the EPA’s recommended limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt), which the EWG says is too high to begin with.
The EWG argues that any level above 1 ppt PFAS is not safe, and has urged the EPA to take a stronger stance on limiting potentially harmful chemicals.
Areas with the highest levels of PFAS were Camp Pendleton, a marine base near San Diego, and water systems serving Corona, Oroville, Sacramento and Rosemont.
At least one sample from each of these systems was between 400 and 820 ppt, with Camp Pendleton’s sample testing at the highest level.
A 2019 EWG study found that 40 percent of water systems in 72 California counties exceeded the EPA’s recommended limit on PFAS. Pictured: Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, a wastewater treatment center in Los Angeles
Lawmakers in the state are considering setting limits for PFAS that are lower than the EPA, which are currently not enforceable.
Several studies suggest a fairly strong link between these ‘forever chemicals’ and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, high blood pressure, thyroid disease and other conditions.
They can also impair the growth of babies whose mothers drank contaminated water while pregnant and cause low birth weight and immune system problems in babies.
At the time of the California study, the group called the Trump administration’s proposed PFA action plan “too weak and toothless to address the growing pollution crisis.”
What are Forever Chemicals?
‘Forever chemicals’, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, are man-made chemicals often added to common household products including cookware, carpets, and textiles to make them more water- and oil- Repellant can be made.
These endocrine-disrupting chemicals do not break down when released into the environment and can contaminate drinking water supplies near facilities where the chemicals are used.
PFAS contamination has been found in waters near construction facilities, as well as in military bases and firefighting training facilities where flame-retardant foams containing PFAS are used.
Perpetual chemicals enter the food supply through food packaging materials and contaminated soil.