Millions of Americans are exposed to harmful chemicals in their drinking water, according to research published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
The chemicals, commonly known as PFASs (polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances), are used in pretty much everything, from food wrappers to clothing to nonstick cookwares to fire-fighting foams. And these chemicals pose health problems ranging from cancer to increased cholesterol levels to compromised immune systems to hormone disruptions.
“These chemicals have concerning health effects, and drinking water is one of the main ways people are exposed to PFASs,” said lead researcher Xindi Hu, from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
It should be noted that some of these chemicals were phased out decades ago. However, they continue to linger in the environment. And once these chemicals get into the water, they are hard to get out.
According to Hu, “Most current wastewater treatment processes do not effectively remove PFASs.”
And unless we have our water tested, there is no way of finding out whether we are exposed to high levels of PFASs. Additionally, the health effects of these chemicals can accumulate over time, as they have the tendency to stay in the body.
The main solution for this problem is to keep these chemicals away from our drinking water. For the meantime, the researchers suggest using a different source of drinking water, especially in those areas with particularly high levels of PFASs. Although even bottled water poses risk because of the chemicals found in plastic bottles.
This new finding is alarming. And the problem could even be bigger.
“Only about 10 percent of community water systems in the U.S. have been tested for these compounds,” said Erik Olson, health program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We think it’s a widespread problem and more monitoring would detect more widespread contamination.”
We have to come together as communities in order to fight for safer drinking water. We have to do something now before it is too late.