A new analysis indicates that more than half all carbonated water products, such as LaCroix, Perrier, Poland Spring and other popular brands, may contain high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals, which may be the result of widespread use of firefighting foam chemicals that have widely contaminated water supplies.
The report was published by watchdog group Consumer Reports on September 24, looking at 47 bottled water products, including 35 noncarbonated and 12 carbonated. While the report notes federal regulators have only set a voluntary guidance calling for levels of PFAS to be below 70 parts per trillion in those types of products, experts consulted by Consumer Reports suggests the level should be set at less than 1 ppt.
PFAS chemicals are used in a wide variety of products, yet the chemicals are projected to take thousands of years to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. The chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and have been found to contaminate waters sources near military bases, airports and other locations where the anti-fire foam is regularly used.
Some estimate suggest the chemicals may be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population, and exposure has been linked to a wide variety of cancers, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer and breast cancer.
While the Consumer Reports study found all of the bottled water products tested fell below the federal voluntary guidance of below 70 ppt, many, particularly carbonated products, had higher than the 1 ppt.
For non-carbonated water products, Deer Park Natural Spring Water had 1.21 ppt, and Tourmaline Spring Sacred Living Water had 4.64 ppt.
Among brands of carbonated water, Topo Chico Natural Mineral Water tested as having PFAS levels of 9.76 ppt; the highest of any product tested. Second highest was Polar natural Seltzer Water, which had 6.41 ppt, according to the Consumer Reports laboratory analysis. Other products with levels above 1 ppt included Perrier Natural Sparkling Mineral Water, La Croix Natural Sparkling Water, Canada Dry Lemon Lime Sparkling Seltzer Water, Poland Spring Zesty Lime Sparkling Water, and Bubly Blackberry Sparkling Water.
Overall, there were at least detectable levels of PFAS in 43 of the 47 products detected.
Firefighting Foam Chemicals Pose Safety Concerns
Consumer Reports and other investigators have repeatedly pointed to the use of Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFFs) as a major cause of PFAS water contamination nationwide, as the fire foam contains a number of PFAS chemicals that could leach into waters supplies around military bases and other training facilities.
In an accompanying story, Consumer Reports detailed how a lack of regulation of PFAS has potentially contributed to widespread contamination.
Just this August, a lawsuit brought by Frank and Lisa Penna, of Pennsylvania, claimed PFAS contamination migrated from the nearby Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base at Willow Grove and into their groundwater supply. Tests of their private well detected PFAS levels as high as 701 ppt, more than 10 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary limits.
However, the fact that PFAS remain unregulated was used by the government’s legal defense to show that it could not be held liable for water contamination from military bases which poison nearby waters.
In recent months, former firefighters and families living near bases have filed numerous firefighting foam lawsuits, which have been filed over testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other injuries.
Since December 2018, all complaints involving firefighting foam exposure filed in federal courts nationwide have been centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.