Checking Tap Water Quality With Test Strip

The authors of a new study published in the journal Science said they found 26 different types of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—known as PFAS, or “forever chemicals” – including half that are not identified by the Environmental Protection Agency’s test methods. 

The authors, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit international environmental advocacy group, said these chemicals were found in drinking water samples collected across 16 states, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The study tested for 70 PFAS, which is 41 more than the EPA tests for. Coastal Review reported that of the 44 samples collected from public water systems and private wells in 16 states, thirty were contaminated with PFAS, the most common chemical that originated in water-and-stain-resistant coatings for furniture, leather, carpets, and various fabrics. There are more than 4,700 types of these chemicals.

“The majority of unmonitored PFAS found in this study are newer generation PFAS that are being used as replacements for legacy PFAS like PFOA and PFOS,” Dr. Katie Pelch, a scientist at NRDC and Dr. Anna Reade, a senior scientist at NRDC, told the website Salon in an email. 

“Scientists, policymakers, and regulators struggle to keep pace with the rate of industry’s unchecked production and use of new PFAS. The detection of a significant number of PFAS not monitored by EPA is part a reflection of this reality.”

TRENDPOST: The Salon report noted that it is “not unusual for chemical companies to avoid environmental regulations by replacing one banned chemical with a slightly different alternative that is nevertheless essentially the same.” 

We have reported extensively on how companies have been resisting calls to end the use of these chemicals to protect their bottom lines. (See “CHIPMAKERS: WE NEED ‘FOREVER CHEMICALS’ FOREVER. WE DON’T CARE IF THEY KILL YOU” 28 Mar 2023 and “STATES BEGIN TO CRACK DOWN ON ‘FOREVER CHEMICALS’ FOLLOWING OUR ‘GOING GREEN’ FORECAST” 17 Jan 2023.)

Scientists have warned that these chemicals can lead to serious health problems for individuals who have been exposed. They have been linked to testicular and kidney cancers, and thyroid disease.  

A report published last year rang the alarm for a tidal wave of liver disease because the chemicals are frequently found in non-stick pans and have been linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Researchers have said the issue will be the leading reason for liver transplants. The report said about 25 percent of the world’s population has the disease. (See “HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS COULD DEVELOP LIVER DISEASE DUE TO ‘FOREVER CHEMICALS’ FOUND IN NON-STICK PANS, TAKEOUT CONTAINERS,” 10 May 2022.)

Anna Reade, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist, said each sample that had PFAS had chemicals that are not monitored by the EPA. 

The EPA told The WSJ that it is not uncommon for different tests to yield different results and it chose its monitoring approach, so the agency is consistent across the country.

“In short, while there may be other PFAS present, EPA chose to act decisively to propose regulations for those PFAS for which the agency had sufficient information in order to reduce PFAS health risk as soon as possible,” the agency told the paper.

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