A new study suggests that tap water from nearly 45% of faucets in the U.S. may contain “forever chemicals” known as PFAS (per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances).
These substances “break down very slowly and can build up,” leading to “adverse health outcomes” like “increased risk of some cancers,” per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
PFAS “Could Be Present In Nearly Half Of The Tap Water In The U.S.”
The study involved researchers testing tap water collected from 716 locations across all 50 states between 2016-2021. Additionally, they tested tap water from select Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands areas.
Notably, while “there are more than 12,000 types of PFAS,” the USGS study only “tested for the presence of 32 types.”
Even with this scope, researchers declared, “We estimate that at least one PFAS could be detected in about 45% of U.S. drinking-water samples.”
USGS researcher and lead author Kelly Smalling called the investigation “the most comprehensive study to date on PFAS in tap water.”
“USGS scientists tested water collected directly from people’s kitchen sinks across the nation, providing the most comprehensive study to date on PFAS in tap water from both private wells and public supplies.”
Smalling continued, emphasizing that the results suggest that PFAS “could be present in nearly half of the tap water in the U.S.” And that’s only with scientists monitoring 32 of them!
“The study estimates that at least one type of PFAS – of those that were monitored – could be present in nearly half of the tap water in the U.S. Furthermore, PFAS concentrations were similar between public supplies and private wells.”
Difference In Rates Between Urban & Rural Areas
On top of the overall tap water percentage, the study also found that exposure rates increased near urban areas, as they tend to contain more “potential PFAS sources.”
The authors note that geographical areas with “most of the exposure” included “the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central/Southern California regions.”
Furthermore, the researchers declared, “USGS scientists estimate that the probability of PFAS not being observed in tap water is about 75% in rural areas and around 25% in urban areas.”
However, the EPA says people can find PFAS “in many places,” so it seems like altogether avoiding the “forever chemicals” would be quite the challenge.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) notes, “It is also possible for very small amounts of PFAS to enter foods through food packaging, processing, and cookware.”