For the developed world, clean drinking water is taken for granted. It’s one of the first things that a society has to figure out how to provide on wide scale, before it can be considered modern. However, just because the water that flows through your taps is free of dangerous microorganisms, doesn’t necessarily mean that your water is clean. If anything, it seems like the modern world has traded “water filled with bacteria” for “water filled with strange chemicals and heavy metals.”
Here in the US, the public is starting to realize that their tap water isn’t nearly as pure as they thought it was. We know that in some parts of the country there is Uranium in the water, and in other parts, pharmaceuticals are often found in the taps. And after the Flint water crisis made the news, we learned that lead is much more pervasive in our water supply than any of us could have imagined.
And now you can add polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl (also known as PFASs) to the long list of crazy stuff in our water supply. These carcinogenic chemicals can interfere with your body’s immune system, disrupt your hormones, and can cause obesity. They’ve been around for about 60 years, and once they get in the water supply they’re nearly impossible to remove. And according to a recent study conducted by Harvard researchers, PFASs are all over the place now.
The study found that PFASs were detectable at the minimum reporting levels required by the EPA in 194 out of 4,864 water supplies in 33 states across the U.S.
Drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75 percent of the unsafe supply, led by California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
Sixty-six of the public water supplies examined, serving six million people, had at least one water sample that measured at or above what the EPA considers safe for human consumption.
The highest levels of PFASs were detected near industrial sites, military bases, and wastewater treatment plants—all places where these chemicals may be used or found.
And there may be far more than 6 million people being exposed to these chemicals on a regular basis. This study only looked at small public water systems and a few private wells, which only accounted for the water supply of about 100 million Americans.
If you wondering if this problem will be taken care of in the near future, don’t hold your breath. There’s a reason why so many toxic substances are in our water in the first place. Either nobody knows how to filter them out (which is the case with PFASs), or the local governments that manage the water don’t have enough resources to prevent the contamination, or clean the water. Every day our public water supplies are turning more and more into toxic soup, and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it.