Friday 7 July 2023

Nearly Half Of U.S. Tap Water Contains ‘Forever Chemicals,’ Government Study Finds

 If you’re drinking water directly from the tap, there’s a chance it contains potentially harmful “forever chemicals,” according to a study released Wednesday by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). 

The study found that 45% of the tap water in the United States likely contains at least one “forever chemical,” also known as per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). The chemicals are believed to possibly cause numerous health problems in humans, including increased cancer risk, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“USGS scientists tested water collected directly from people’s kitchen sinks across the nation, providing the most comprehensive study to date on PFAS in tap water from both private wells and public supplies,” Kelly Smalling, USGS research hydrologist and lead author of the study, said.

“The study estimates that at least one type of PFAS — of those that were monitored — could be present in nearly half of the tap water in the U.S. Furthermore, PFAS concentrations were similar between public supplies and private wells,” Smalling added. 

The USGS explains that forever chemicals are synthetic and used in various everyday items, including nonstick pots and pans and fast food box linings. Other products that can contain PFAS include shampoo, nail polish, candy wrappers, pizza boxes, and microwave popcorn bags, according to the CDC. Even products for babies are not immune from forever chemicals — they have been detected in clothing, toys, and bedding, the Daily Mail reports.  

Of the more than 12,000 different types of PFAS, the USGS only monitored 32 because many forever chemicals cannot be detected with tests available today, the government agency explained. They are referred to as “forever chemicals” because of the prolonged period of time they take to break down. 

As for the most commonly found forever chemicals detected, the USGS says PFOs, PFBS, PFHxS, and PFOA appeared regularly. 


Americans who live in urban areas are more likely to encounter PFAS in drinking water, the study says. PFAS exposure was higher in the Great Plains, Great Lakes region, Central and Southern California, and the Eastern Seaboard. During the research, which the USGS says is the first study of its kind, tap water samples were tested at 716 locations “representing a range of low, medium and high human-impacted areas.” 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, forever chemicals “may lead to” decreased fertility, developmental delays in children, behavioral changes, accelerated puberty, hormonal interference, decreased immune response, and increased risk of obesity, among other potential health effects. 

“PFAS can get into drinking water when products or wastes containing them are disposed of, used or spilled onto the ground or into lakes and rivers,” the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team website notes. “PFAS move easily through the ground, getting into groundwater that is used for some water supplies or for private drinking water wells.”

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