Toxic 'forever chemicals' found in drinking water throughout US

A study released Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group found heightened levels of potentially toxic chemicals in tap water supplies serving dozens of major American cities.

The report, published by the Environmental Working Group, found that 20 cities and regions nationwide – including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami and Louisville, Kentucky – contained PFAS levels of at least 10 parts per trillion. Forty-three areas, including New York City, Nashville, Las Vegas and Sacramento, had detectable PFAS at least 1 part per trillion.

Only one city, Meridian, Mississippi, which uses well water 700 feet below the surface, found no PFAS, while Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Seattle had levels lower than the 1 part per trillion limit advised by the EWG.

PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances also known as "forever chemicals," have been linked to reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects, as well as high cholesterol and obesity.

EWG's work expanded on data from an EPA program that ended in 2015, analyzing water samples using an EPA-approved independent laboratory for a larger set of PFAS compounds.

PFAS compounds remain in food packaging, cookware and other consumer products.

They are also still used in firefighting foam, though Wisconsin, New York, Washington, and Colorado are beginning to switch to non-PFAS foam, either due to action by state legislators or by self-regulation by individual fire departments. It must also be phased out in fire departments nationwide by 2024.

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