US public water supplies, serving approximately six million people, contain a dangerous amount of toxic chemicals, which is unsafe for human consumption and may cause cancer as well as other health issues in the future, a research has revealed.
The study conducted at Harvard University with the help of health and environmental agencies, is based on an analysis of 36,000 water samples collected across the United States between 2013 and 2015.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters on Tuesday, looks specifically at poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), toxic and persistent chemicals, human exposure to which scientists link to possible cancer, elevated cholesterol, obesity, immune suppression, and endocrine disruption.
“PFASs were detected at or above the MRLs [maximum residue limits] in 194 of 4864 public water supplies…. in 33 different states, three American territories (American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam), and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75% of detections, including, by order of frequency of detection, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois,” the study revealed.
The study underscores that some research tools are unable to properly identify the number of PFAS in the water at some locations, and a number of sources were not included into the spatial analysis as the “current information about sources cannot fully explain the high observed PFAS concentration.”
PFASs can be used for a wide range of industrial and related purposes, including food processing, packaging manufacture, commonly used colorants and paints, as well as firefighting foam. In recent years, a number of manufacturers have stopped using PFASs, but the chemicals can persist for years in the environment and living organisms.