(Photo by New Jersey Monitor).
Nearly half the nation’s water supply (45%), including here in Pennsylvania, could be contaminated with at least one form of so-called ‘forever chemicals,’ according to a newly released study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The chemicals are used for a variety of purposes, including making waterproof cosmetics, stain-resistant fabrics and carpeting to non-stick cookware.
They’re also used in fire-fighting foam at military installations, leading to contamination at scores of military bases, including an air station in suburban Philadelphia.
The chemicals pose a significant public health risk. They’ve been linked to cancer and other serious health problems, the Capital-Star reported in 2020.
The new study is the first to compare PFAS in tap water from both public and private supplies across the country, NPR reported.
The study “can help members of the public to understand their risk of exposure and inform policy and management decisions regarding testing and treatment options for drinking water,” Kelly Smalling, a USGS research chemist, and the study’s lead author, told NPR.
The USGS study arrived at its findings by testing water samples from more than 700 locations across the country during a five-year period. Its release also comes as Washington looks to create new regulations for toxins in drinking water supplies, NPR reported.
The USGS tested for 32 PFAS compounds, and said in a statement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “recent advisories for PFOS and PFOA, the two most common types, ‘were exceeded in every sample in which they were detected in this study,'” NPR reported.
According to NPR, scientists estimated that there’s a 75% chance that PFAS will be found in urban areas, and a 25% chance they’ll be found in rural areas. The research also suggests that they may be more prevalent in certain regions across the country.
“Results from this study indicate potential hotspots include the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central/Southern California regions,” Smalling told NPR.
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania’s two United States senators, Democrats Bob Casey and John Fetterman, announced that the state was in line for $75 million in grant funding from the federal infrastructure law to help fight PFAS contamination in drinking water.
The funding for Pennsylvania and other states comes through the EPA’s “Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities” grant program.
In March, the EPA announced a new rule aimed at cracking down in PFAS in water supplies, determining that no amount of these compounds is safe, North Carolina Newsline, a sibling site of the Capital-Star, reported at the time.
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