PFAS Contaminants in Drinking Water – ‘A Ticking Time Bomb’

A recent study analyzed water systems in 100 major U.S. cities. More than 300 pollutants in the water supplied to over 250 million Americans were found.

Contaminants include arsenic, lead and even perchlorate, a main ingredient in rocket fuel.

These chemicals also include perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, known collectively as PFAS. As well as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). Both of those latter contaminants also fall under the PFAS umbrella.

PFAS were found in water samples of 2,790 communities across 49 states. That’s according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG). They are an independent research and consumer watchdog organization.

More Than 4,000 Types

We’ve talked a lot about the dangers of lead contamination in the past. Especially in Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey – and now in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Today I want to focus on PFAS. The American Chemistry Council says there are more than 4,000 types of PFAS chemicals.

But are they dangerous? Dr. Bo Guo is a University of Arizona hydrologist and expert on PFAS. He said, “They basically fulfill the characteristics of a ticking time bomb. They’re very dangerous and they’re migrating very slowly.”

PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals. They’ve been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the world since the 1940s. The two PFAS chemicals most extensively used and studied are PFOA and PFOS.

The biggest problem with these chemicals is they don’t break down. Not in the environment and not in humans or animals. They accumulate over time. That’s why they’re called “forever chemicals.”

‘An Issue in Every Community’

One recent report claims this. Some 16 million Americans in 38 states are regularly drinking water contaminated with these toxic chemicals. That is probably a conservative estimate. Testing for these chemicals is not legally required.

Sydney Evans of the EWG says, “It’s likely an issue in every community. That’s why we need testing to find out.” The CDC says this about PFAS in drinking water. “(It’s) one of the most seminal public health challenges for the next decades.”

These chemicals have been linked to a number of serious conditions. Even small concentrations are considered a threat to public health. That’s according to the EWG and Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Some of these chemicals have nonstick properties. They’ve been used in hundreds of commercial household products through the years. Including cookware, outdoor clothing such as waterproof jackets and food packaging.

Firefighting Foam Is a Culprit

In some areas of the country, tap water has been contaminated with PFAS for a long time. So long that residents have forgotten what clean water tastes like.

Such as in two communities in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. People there were unable to safely use their tap water for two years.

PFAS chemicals have entered the water supply in many areas after decades of use on nearby military bases. And at commercial airports.

Much of that spread came from the use of firefighting foam. Eventually that foam sank into the surrounding soil and bodies of water.

‘We Know It’s Not Going Away’

More knowledge of the dangers these contaminants present is being discovered. And scientists and health experts are becoming alarmed.

Three months ago, the city of Tucson, Arizona shut down a major water treatment facility. It delivered drinking water to 60,000 residents. That was due to a surge in PFAS contamination. It threatened to overwhelm groundwater filtration systems.

John Kmiec is the interim director of Tucson Water. He says, “We know it’s not going away. The thing that gives me the greatest concern is not every community or every water company in the U.S. is actively testing for PFAS.”

“We don’t want (PFAS) in our bodies because we know that they can make some people sick.” So says Dr. Jamie DeWitt. She is an East Carolina University toxicologist and pharmacologist.

Still No Federal Regulations

PFOA has been found everywhere from fish in the Delaware River to polar bears in the Arctic. And it’s been linked to a variety of serious health issues.

Among those upset about this situation is Tracy Carluccio. She is deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“This stuff doesn’t belong in our water,” Carluccio said. “Chemical companies put it there. Scientists and health experts say it has bad health effects. And it is especially dangerous for the unborn and children.”

And yet PFOA is among many contaminants not regulated by federal and state governments.

Do Recommended Limits Provide Safety?

In fact, the EWG says there are no federal limits on one-half of the contaminants in drinking water. And even when there are, are those limits sufficient?

Here’s an example. The EPA tells us that .04 parts per billion of PFOA in our drinking water is safe.

But researchers disagree. Including those at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. They say the standard should be as low as 0.001 parts per billion.

That’s 40 times lower than the New Jersey standard. And 400 times lower than the current federal advisory standards.

Filter All Your Tap Water

Is there any solution to the growing problem of PFAS contamination? The only one I know of is using water purification products.

Filter the water that comes out of your taps. And purify water you drink from outdoor sources. That way you can greatly reduce the odds of consuming contaminated water.

Just make sure your purification devices are effective against a wide variety of contaminants. You can check out one of my favorite purification devices here.


  • royce fischer - November 09, 2021

    Mark and I have had a filter to clean our water since we first moved to our town. We the city purchased a new water system a couple years ago, but I still use the Berkey Filter with charcoal for trihalamethanes and it does a good job. I recommend everyone use a good quality filter for their water. This one is also transportable and we take it with us when we travel.

  • Khem - November 08, 2021

    What kind of water filters. You gave us half the info. Will pur filters work or are reversosmosis necessary?

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