More than 70 million Americans are drinking tap water contaminated with “forever chemicals” linked to cancer, as well as reproductive and immune system damage, according to a federal study.
These “forever chemicals” — formally known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — are microscopic, man-made compounds that can’t be broken down by the body.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency reported this month that after testing just one-third of public water supplies in the US, an alarming number of residents are being exposed to “forever chemicals.”
Of the 3,700 water systems tested by the EPA, the most contaminated were found in densely populated regions like New York, New Jersey, and parts of California and Texas.
The EPA’s results were extrapolated and applied to population figures in an analysis by the activist organization Environment Working Group (EWG), the Daily Mail earlier reported.
“The full scale of PFAS contamination is likely much more widespread,” an EWG spokesperson said, noting that the EPA’s report only provides a snapshot of the situation in the US.
Big Apple residents, however, seem to have clean drinking water.
The EPA’s interactive map of PFAS contamination across US water systems showed that the island of Manhattan had zero reports of “forever chemicals.”
New York City’s Environmental Protection organization even touts on its website that the Big Apple’s “drinking water is world-renowned for its quality.”
But it’s not just the water systems where PFAS pose a threat to human health. The chemicals are also found in food packaging, cookware, clothes, and cleaning supplies as they’re known to serve as a protective heat-, oil- and stain-resistant barrier in many household items, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The EPA report comes on the heals of another concerning study published last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found there are an average of 240,000 plastic particles in a 1-liter water bottle — 100 times more than researchers previously thought.
The scientists tested for levels of “nanoplastics,” which are under 1 micrometer in length — or 1/70 the width of a human hair — versus more commonly analyzed microplastics, which are between 1 and 5,000 micrometers in length.
Nanoplastics, however, pose potentially a greater health risk because they’re small enough to penetrate cells and enter the bloodstream, plus have the ability to impact organs, experts said.
They can also pass through the placenta in a pregnant woman and affect unborn babies.
The new tech was used to examine 25 different brands of 1-liter water bottles.
Though the researchers refused to specify which brands they tested, they found between 110,000 and 370,000 of these itty bitty plastic fragments in each of the liters — 90% of them nanoplastics.
According to the Mayo Clinic, adult men should drink about 3.7 liters of water per day, while women should aim for 2.7 liters — an amount that subjects men and women to as many as 888,000 or 648,000, respectively, plastic particles per day should individuals choose to get their daily water intake entirely from water bottled in plastic containers.
A separate study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society showed that microplastics found in US food and water cost the healthcare system as much as $289 billion.
For reference, the entire COVID pandemic racked up some $203 billion in healthcare costs.