Findings in recent years have yielded evidence that past science underestimated the toxicity of the man-made chemicals known collectively as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have contaminated basic and essential U.S. commodities like drinking water and food.
Over the past several months, experts, politicians and activists have raised concerns about the levels of PFAS contamination in the biosolid known as "sludge" spread as a fertilizer on farmlands across the country. The concern is related to the assertion that the human waste used in the creation of sludge is contaminated with the chemicals because it is taken from treatment plants that are not federally required to treat for PFAS, according to E and E News. In September, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated that the agency would look into finding a way to identify PFASs in biosolids.
More toxic than previously thought
First developed by companies like 3M and Dupont for use in nonstick coating production - notably Teflon - for products like cookware and food packaging, PFASs are also found in firefighting foam used at military bases and airports, according to the EPA. Human exposure to relatively high amounts of the widely studied PFASs PFOA and PFOS have been linked to low infant birth weight, effects on the immune system and cancer and thyroid hormone disruption, respectively, the agency states.
Both PFOA and PFOS have caused tumors in animals during studies, which have also yielded findings suggesting the chemicals are capable of causing reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney and immunological effects. While the chemicals have been studied for decades, new findings have suggested that toxicity can occur at lower levels than previously believed. There are nearly 5,000 identified PFAS variants.
Human waste contaminated with PFAS used as fertilizer on U.S. farmlands
Recent cases related to the use of the "sludge" have notably been raised in Michigan and New England, with Maine having recently mandated that its treatment plants test for PFASs. The chemicals have also been found in landfills, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. The news source reported that a Maine wastewater plant that discharges into the Kennebec River accepted 250,000 gallons of potentially PFAS-contaminated liquid runoff from a New Hampshire landfill.
"We now know that wastewater treatment systems, for example, are taking waste in the water... and they're ending up with very high levels of PFOS in biosludge that's given to farmers across the country where this sludge is spread on agricultural fields, which could be major sources of PFOS for intake of the crops and by the animals," lawyer Rob Billiot recently told a House subcommittee. Billiot has previously been successful in suing the company on behalf of a farmer whose herd of cattle as killed following a Teflon leak, and procured company memos and research that demonstrated the company knew about the risks posed by Teflon (PFOA).
Amid recent concerns surrounding evidence of PFOS-contaminated water sources, consumers should be wary. For those looking to reduce their risk of PFAS consumption through water contamination, contact Aqua Finance today to find out more about our water treatment options.