Federal Water Contamination Report Warns Of Dangerous PFOA and PFOS Levels

A new federal report warns that drinking water in the U.S. contains high levels of several dangerous chemicals, which can cause various side effects for residents nationwide. 

A study published this month by federal researchers with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, analyzed levels of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFASs. The draft report indicates the two PFASs in particular are found in extremely high levels in the water, air, and soil in the U.S.; perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

Researchers warn that current minimum risk levels for oral exposure to PFOS and PFOA are set too high, indicating that even extremely low daily doses of the chemicals affected mice and rats in the laboratory, changing the bone structure and brain activity of offspring.

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The agency recommends exposure limits for PFOS 10 times lower than the limits currently set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Similarly, it recommended limits for PFOA are 6.7 times lower than what the EPA has set.

Researchers indicate this study offers the most in depth look at the health consequences of PFASs. The study concludes the chemicals are a much greater risk to human health than previously believed.

PFASs are chemical substances used to manufacture a number of products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and firefighting foams.

The chemicals have long half-lives, so they stay in the body and the environment for a long time. High levels of PFOA and PFOS were found in the air, household dust, food, soil, ground and surface water, which then leads to drinking water.

PFASs were introduced into manufacturing more than 60 years ago and were widely and frequently used in the mid-2000s. However, since then the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.

Emails Suggest Report Was Delayed For Political Reasons

The report was reportedly withheld for months, and was only published after a number of emails from the White House were revealed, indicating the Trump administration wanted the report held up because the findings contradicted efforts by the administration to aggressively roll back environmental standards.

Details of the emails were revealed in a recent Politico story, reporting that the emails said the report would indicate PFOA and PFOS are a danger at levels allowed under current EPA guidelines, which is exactly what the report indicated when it was released.

One of the emails indicated that, due to the heavy use of these chemicals by the military, releasing the report would be a “potential public relations nightmare” for the administration.

In response to the report, the EPA announced it would start the process of finding a “maximum contaminant level” for PFOA and PFOS, the two most common PFASs.

Additionally, the EPA indicated it will start the process of listing PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” and will set up a plan to clean groundwater of PFOA and PFOS by the fall. Furthermore, the agency plans to determine toxicity values for PFAS related chemicals by the summer.


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