Millions of Americans may be exposed to contaminated drinking water, according to alarming new research conducted by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University.
EWG and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern pinpointed 610 locations in 43 states that are known to be polluted with the toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, affecting drinking water systems which serve an estimated 19 million people.
The various contaminated sites include public water systems, military bases, military and civilian airports, industrial plants, dumps and firefighter training sites, all of which can be located on a newly updated interactive map of PFAS contamination in the U.S.
The map was last updated in July 2018, and at that time only 172 contaminated sites across 40 states had been identified. Though this latest refresh draws from new data sources, and is therefore not directly comparable with the previous edition, experts say it is still a clear indication that the crisis is spreading, and that the new data may still only represent the "tip of a toxic iceberg."
"The updated map shows that PFAS contamination is truly a nationwide problem, impacting millions of Americans in hundreds of communities," Phil Brown, a professor of sociology and health sciences at Northeastern University, said in a press release from EWG. "Leaders in many communities and states are doing great work to raise awareness about PFAS and push for cleanup, but this is a national crisis demanding national action. The EPA should act more quickly to evaluate all PFAS chemicals and restrict their use, and polluting industries should be held responsible."
With 192 sites on the map, representing nearly a third of all locations nationwide, Michigan has by far the most known contamination sites of any state, reflecting the most comprehensive testing program in America. According to EWG, this proves that PFAS chemicals are indeed everywhere you look, and the 610 confirmed sites are likely just a fraction of the total actual number of contamination sites, which could be discovered with more thorough testing.
The map also lists 117 military sites, including 77 military airports, which EWG attributes to the Pentagon's long running usage of PFAS-based firefighting foam.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS have been used in hundreds of consumer products since the 1940s, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, Teflon cookware, polishes, waxes, paints and cleaning products. These toxic substances have been referred to as "forever chemicals" because some of them never break down, or take a very long time to do so.
PFAS have been linked to many adverse health effects, including weakened childhood immunity, thyroid disease, cancer and other issues. Though PFOA, formerly used to make Teflon, and PFOS, formerly used in Scotchgard, have been phased out in the United States, they have been replaced by chemically similar compounds that may be just as dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, virtually every American has PFAS chemicals contaminating their blood.
The new interactive map showing 610 confirmed PFAS contamination sites across America is a sobering illustration of just how widespread the crisis has become. To help your customers avoid toxic chemicals and make a healthy investment in clean drinking water, contact Aqua Finance today to find out more about our water treatment financing programs.