Federal study finds forever chemicals in more than half of Americans’ drinking water

“...we’re talking about a chemical that has managed to find its way into the blood of almost everything on the planet and almost every person in the United States.”

Image Credit: Royalty-Free/Corbis

A federal study conducted by the United States Geological Survey determined that PFOA and PFOS, otherwise known as forever chemicals, are contaminating up to half of Americans’ tap water supply. The researchers tested for 32 individual PFAS and PFOA compounds and found the chemicals “exceeded in every sample in which they were detected” the safe amount set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal study conducted a first-of-it-kind analysis in which it tested direct water samples from Americans’ tap water supply at more than 700 locations across the country in a five-year period.

“This USGS study can help members of the public to understand their risk of exposure and inform policy and management decisions regarding testing and treatment options for drinking water,” Kelly Smalling, a researcher from the Geological Survey, said.

The study confirmed geographical hot spots such as the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central/Southern California with the highest levels of forever chemicals in the tap water supply. Also, the “likelihood of contamination is higher in urban areas, with a 75 percent chance of contamination, compared to a 25 percent chance in rural areas,” Causes.com reported.

“The study estimates that 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. Furthermore, PFAS concentrations were similar between public supplies and private wells,” Smalling said.

PFAS—per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—are called “forever chemicals” because they break down slowly over time causing the chemicals to remain in the environment for many years. PFAS are a class of some 9,000 human-made substances that are used in many consumer goods including food packaging, cookware, waterproof clothing, cosmetics, mattresses, carpets and electronics to make products and materials resistant to water, heat, and stains, Causes.com reported.

The American Cancer Society links certain types of cancers, such as testicular and kidney cancers, to PFOA exposure in both humans and animals.

“…we’re talking about a chemical that has managed to find its way into the blood of almost everything on the planet and almost every person in the United States,” Rob Bilott, an attorney fighting against chemical giants, said.


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Ashley is an editor, social media content manager and writer at NationofChange. Before joining NoC, she was a features reporter at The Daily Breeze – a local newspaper in Southern California – writing a variety of stories on current topics including politics, the economy, human rights, the environment and the arts. Ashley is a transplant from the East Coast calling Los Angeles home.