According to scientists, the number of Americans drinking PFAS-contaminated water may be much higher than the 6 million figure initially reported.
A recent Harvard Harvard study found that almost across 30 states tested, 194 of 4864 water supplies contained PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances) — a chemical that has been around for 60 years and which is used for nonstick cooking utensils, as well as food packaging and firefighting foams.
The chemicals break down slowly and remain in our environment for a long time, including in drinking water.
PFASs have been linked to cancer and other health problrms.
The water supplies in a few states accounted for most of the contaminated sources: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois, in order of contamination levels.
“For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities, such as PFASs, were allowed to be used and released to the environment, and we now have to face the severe consequences,” lead author Xindi Hu, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and Environmental Science and Engineering at SEAS, said in a statement.
She said the number of water supplies contaminated with PFASs may be much higher than the 6 million initially reported, however.
“The actual number of people exposed may be even higher than our study found, because government data for levels of these compounds in drinking water are lacking for almost a third of the US population — about 100 million people,” she said.
Use of PFASs by large companies has led to many lawsuits. For example, DuPont is currently facing 3500 personal injury lawsuits for illegal dumping of PFOA byproducts (perflurooctanoic acid) into the Ohio Rive, leading to kidney and testicular cancer and other ailments, according to the plaintiffs.