Dangerous Forever Chemicals Detected In Almost 50% Of US Water Supply, Study Reveals

Nearly half of tap water samples in the United States contain harmful forever chemicals that are commonly found in household items like cleaning supplies and pizza boxes, according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 

The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pose significant health risks when people are exposed to them on a broad scale. The USGS analyzed tap water samples nationwide from over 700 residences, businesses and water treatment plants.

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The researchers found that at least one synthetic chemical from the PFAS group was present in 45% of the samples, surpassing the established benchmarks and proposed regulations in the United States. PFAS are resistant to water and do not break down easily in the environment or in the human body, leading to long-lasting effects. Originally developed in the 1940s for products like Teflon, which is used as a nonstick coating for cookware, these chemicals are now used in a wide range of products, including clothing and plastics.

While previous studies have examined PFAS levels in groundwater, reservoirs and water treatment plants, this study focused specifically on tap water, providing a more accurate representation of what people consume. 

"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," said Kelly Smalling, a research hydrologist who is the USGS study's lead author. "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 further stated that tap water analysis allows for a better understanding of the actual drinking water quality. Although there are thousands of known types of PFAS, the study examined 32 of them, as testing for all 12,000 is not yet feasible. The samples used in the study were collected from public water supplies and private wells between 2016 and 2021. 

Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in PFAS exposure between samples from private wells and those from the public supply. This finding contrasts with the regulatory differences between public water supplies, which are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and private wells, which have no specific regulations.

The global climate crisis continues to produce concerning results, with global temperatures reaching all-time highs. While green-tech companies like Tesla Inc. or startups like YouSolar continue to develop innovative solutions to help curb global emissions, many worry the transition isn’t happening quick enough.

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Impact And Preventative Measures

The study also found that people in urban areas face a higher risk of PFAS exposure through drinking water compared to those in rural areas. This underscores the importance of addressing the issue in urban environments.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high levels of PFAS exposure can interfere with hormone balance, impair liver function, raise the likelihood of kidney or testicular cancer, decrease infant birth weight and jeopardize the well-being of expectant mothers.

To address the problem, the EPA proposed the first-ever national drinking water standard for six PFAS chemicals in March. This proposed standard would require monitoring of public water systems and disclosure when PFAS levels exceed the established limits. The Biden administration's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also allocated nearly $10 billion to support communities in reducing PFAS and other chemical contaminants.

Disrupting Potential For Startups

The increased problem of plastic pollution in the oceans and freshwater sources has long been discussed by scientists and activists, as it poses significant health risks. At least 93% of Americans have tested positive for microscopic plastic Bisphenol-A. This isn't surprising, as the plastics industry reached a valuation of over $600 billion in 2022, nearly 2.6 times the value of the social ad spend market.

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