Trends Journal has previously carried stories particularly about impurities in our water, some known to be harmful and some merely suspected of being so; see, for example, “YOU THINK COVID WILL KILL YOU? HAVE A DRINK OF WATER!” (15 Jun 2021). That article mentioned two man-made chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, used to make plastics and resins, strongly suspected of being carcinogenic. PFOA and PFOS are no longer produced in the U.S.A., but can still be found in water supplies.
That Trends Journal article also noted a time lag in studies of impurities in water; the report cited in the article was issued in 2021 but was based on data from 2016.
On 3 November The Guardian reported on an analysis by the Environmental Working Group, a clean water advocacy group that has updated its database for the first time since 2019; it revealed that U.S. utilities and water regulators have, over the past two years, confirmed the presence of 56 new contaminants in drinking water. The list includes pesticides and even radioactive materials among substances linked to, among other things, cancer, reproductive issues and liver problems.
Chief among these contaminants are PFAs, a group of substances intended to replace PFOA and PFOS in making plastics and resins; see “U.S. WATER: ‘FOREVER CHEMICALS & TOXIC WASTE'” (6 Oct 2020).
TRENDPOST: In 2000, the fluorochemical industry reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate PFOA and PFOS from products and emissions by 2015. Based on parameters set by the European Commission in 2015 and applied in 2018, PFAs were designated as “polymers of low concern” and approved for use in, among other things, food packaging and medical devices. But PFAs are still considered toxic and are being studied by the EPA as a precursor to that agency setting limits on acceptable levels in drinking water.
The EPA moves at a glacial pace to set limits; it found “eye-opening” PFA levels in 2013 but has yet to act; it intends to set limits for two types of PFAs within two years.
The Guardian‘s article quotes an Environmental Working Group spokesperson: “…We don’t have nearly strong enough regulations in place to protect drinking water, and the regulation process is much too slow… We’re testing for things that are already in our drinking water after the fact …and we’re not keeping pace with these chemicals.”
Another contaminant found is HAA-9, which is a byproduct of water disinfection. A related product, HAA-5, is subject to limited use because of its association with health problems, and now HAA-9 has been linked to low birthrates and is under scrutiny.
TREND FORECAST: In order to avoid the contaminants in tap water, people will continue to make bottled water a billion-dollar industry. But most of that bottled water comes in plastic bottles, which can leach their own impurities into even the most purified water; see “DRINKING THE BOTTLE ALONG WITH THE WATER” (10 Jul 2019). However, tap water has some redeeming qualities: it may help to protect us from plastic containers; see “TAP WATER SHIELDS AGAINST MICROPLASTICS” (2 Nov 2021).