Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – also known as “forever chemicals” for their near-indestructible nature – are everywhere. They’re in things we use every day: our non-stick frying pans, our stain-resistant carpets, even our dental floss.
They’re also in things like our breastmilk and blood – even the blood of newborn babies. They’re in the air we breathe – and according to a new study from scientists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmentalist activism group that specializes in research on toxic chemicals and pollutants, they’re also in the water we drink.
“There are tens of thousands of potential point sources of PFAS contamination across the United States that could pollute surface water or drinking water,” explains the study, published this week in the journal American Water Works Association Water Science. “Water testing downstream from manufacturing facilities and from PFAS users identified a significant number of previously unknown PFAS, confirming the need for broad testing of industrial facilities and broad testing across this entire class of synthetic compounds.”
Using public data from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the researchers analyzed nearly 42,000 potential sources of PFAS contamination in drinking water across the US – mostly solid waste landfills, wastewater treatment plants, electroplaters and metal finishers, and petroleum refineries. More than 30 percent of the sites studied had active National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, meaning they were legally allowed to discharge pollutants into future communal drinking water (albeit under certain limitations.)