According to a new study, 7.5 million Californians may be using water contaminated with PFAs, chemicals that never break down and have been associated with cancer. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises a cap of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) PFAS in drinking water, the survey found that over 40% of the 74 water systems that were studied had at least one sample with a level of total PFAS over 70 ppt.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) stated:
Among the utilities with high maximum detections of PFAS in drinking water sources was the system for the southern part of Camp Pendleton, the sprawling Marine Corps base in San Diego County, where a combined concentration of 820 ppt for seven different PFAS chemicals was measured in a single well in 2017.
More than 578 ppt of eight PFAS chemicals was detected this year in a well of the City of Corona water system, and more than 450 ppt of six PFAS in a well of the California Water Service Company system for Oroville. In 2017, more than 400 ppt of six PFAS was found in a well of the California American Water Company system for Rosemont and other Sacramento suburbs.
The Daily Mail noted that scientists don’t know how PFAs affect human health:
But studies in animals and looking at rates of disease and exposure in humans suggest a fairly robust link between kidney cancer, thyroid disease and other health problems. They may also disrupt the development of babies whose mothers drink contaminated water while pregnant.
The Environmental Protection Agency explained where PFAS can be found:
Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water. Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs). Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS. Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility). Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.
On the effects of these chemicals, the EPA stated, “Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animals.” They added, “The most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to: low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer (for PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).”
The EWG study noted, “PFAS contamination has been found in more than 800 communities, military bases, airports and industrial sites nationwide. EWG’s analysis of unreleased EPA-mandated test data estimates that more than 100 million Americans may have PFAS in their drinking water. Because PFAS are ‘forever chemicals’ that never break down once released into the environment, they build up in our blood and organs.” The study the cited the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “virtually all Americans have PFAS in their blood.”