PFAS in Drinking Water Many people fill up a glass of water from their faucet and drink it without even thinking if it’s safe. But the Flint, Michigan, water crisis revealed that safe, potable tap water isn’t a given in the U.S. Just because the water that comes out of the faucet is clean and clear doesn’t mean it isn’t contaminated. There’s a difference between clean and safe water.
Many times, microorganisms, invisible to the naked eye, lurk in the water. The water might also contain chemicals that could harm human health.
New data reveals that the drinking water of about 26 million Americans is contaminated with dangerous levels of PFAS. From Collegeville, Pennsylvania, to Fresno, California, the contaminated drinking water is served everywhere.
This begs the question: how do PFAS sneak into drinking water? We’ll answer this in this article.
Sources of PFAS in Drinking Water
Forever chemicals in drinking water can originate from numerous sources. Here are some major sources of PFAS contamination in drinking water:
1. Fire Response or Training Sites
Aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, is used to extinguish flammable liquid fires such as fuel fires. This is why it is used in fire training facilities, fire fighting vehicles, shore facility fire suppression systems, and shipboard.
Though it is highly effective in putting out fires, the use of AFFF has raised concerns about environmental contamination. That’s because this foam contains PFAS. When used to extinguish fires, the synthetic chemicals in firefighting foams can infiltrate the ground.
As forever chemicals are persistent, they remain in the soil for long. Ultimately, they leach into the groundwater or transport to the surface water and reach drinking water sources.
Recently, firefighting foams have been under fire due to their link with several types of cancers, including testicular cancer.
Thousands of lawsuits are filed against manufacturers alleging that they released harmful PFAS into the environment despite knowing of the risks to human health. Manufacturers such as Chemours, ChemDesign Inc, DuPont, and 3M are named in the suit, notes TorHoerman Law.
One firefighter foam lawsuit has also been filed by the City of Stuart, claiming that its water supply had been polluted with PFAS-containing firefighting foams. Top U.S. chemical firms, namely DuPont and Chemours, have agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle water contamination lawsuits.
On the other hand, 3M decided to settle lawsuits over PFAS in drinking water by paying $10.3 billion.
Landfills are also a source of PFAS contamination in water. It’s easy to see why: they are the final repositories for PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge, industrial waste, and consumer goods.
Products that have been landfilled since the 1950s are potential sources of forever chemicals in water. Over time, these chemicals leach into landfills, ultimately migrating into groundwater.
3. Industrial Sites
PFAS are mostly used in manufacturing industrial and consumer goods, such as paper, textiles, and manufacturing materials. Effluents from manufacturing facilities can release forever chemicals into nearby water bodies. This contaminated the groundwater and the surface water.
Other facilities that may be a source of PFAS contamination in water are aviation manufacturers, plating facilities, wire manufacturers, paper mills, and textile and leather processors.
Industrial facilities release forever chemicals in water through leaks and spills, onsite and offsite disposal of wastes, and wastewater discharges.
PFAS and Their Health Effects Explained
PFAS– which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances– is a large, complex group of man-made chemicals that have been widely used in an array of consumer products since the 1940s. Of all the PFAS, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are the most commonly studied chemicals.
This large class of manufactured chemicals is a matter of concern because they are toxic even at extremely low levels, i.e., parts per quadrillion. Plus, they don’t disintegrate– hence, the name forever chemicals.
Exposure to these chemical compounds can be detrimental to human health. Studies on lab animals suggest that PFAS exposure can damage the liver and the immune system. It is also linked with newborn deaths, delayed development, birth defects, and low birth weight.
Epidemiological studies have discovered a link between exposure to specific PFAs and a host of health issues, such as cancer, kidney disease, lipid and insulin dysregulation, and liver disease.
To wrap things up, PFAS in drinking water is a pressing issue because the chemical substance exposes humans to a host of health issues, including thyroid and heart issues and developmental delays.
Fortunately, you can reduce forever chemicals in your drinking water by using an advanced water filter such as reverse osmosis or an activated carbon filter. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s certified to remove PFAS. But before that, get your tap water tested by an EPA-certified lab to learn the levels of forever chemicals.