A new report published by the Environmental Working Group following a recent update to its online database shows that most disadvantaged U.S. communities are served water with higher numbers of contaminants than their wealthier counterparts. Water test results taken from just under 50,000 local utilities in all 50 states over two years identified 278 contaminants. There are no federal standards for 160 of the identified contaminants related to their limits in public water supplies, according to Truthout.
"Just because your community's tap water gets a passing grade from the government does not mean it's safe," the EWG update report reads.
The database - which aggregates water utility water quality test results by ZIP code - was first published in 2005, and the most recent database update analyzed 32 million water quality test results at utilities between 2016 and 2017, according to EWG.
According to the EWG, over 1,000 sites in hundreds of communities across 49 states have been contaminated with toxic types of chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances. Known as "forever chemicals" to some, PFASs do not break down and remain in the environment for decades, according to the EWG.
Currently, there are no federal public drinking water standards related to the presence of the PFASs known as PFOA and PFOS, which were used in products made by chemical companies DuPont and 3M, according to the EPA. The agency has issued health advisories for PFOA and PFOS that describe "non-regulator concentrations of drinking water contaminants at or below which adverse health effects are not anticipated to occur over specific exposure durations."
Other types of chemical contamination
Other contaminants with no legal limits related to their concentrations in drinking water among the other 278 identified in the EWG results include known potential carcinogens such as chloroform and hexavalent chromium. The report further found that "smaller" water utilities - also found to have higher concentrations of arsenic and carcinogenic nitrates in their water than larger facilities - serve poorer communities than wealthier ones.
From 1982-2015, 9-45 million Americans were affected by water that violated "health-based water quality standards".
EWG's results come following a report published by the National Academy of Sciences report in 2018 that found that between the years of 1982 and 2015, nine to 45 million Americans (equivalent to 28% of the U.S. population) were affected by water that violated "health-based water quality standards," the report reads. Results further showed that three to ten percent of water systems or "relatively few," see health violations each year, yet "improved compliance is needed to ensure safe drinking water nationwide." At the state level, enforcement agencies "lack a systematic procedure" for additional inspection and monitoring of sites determined to be at risk.
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