Drinking Water : 6 Million Americans Face Unsafe Drinking Water
More than 6 million Americans are drinking water exposed to unsafe levels of chemicals linked with cancer and other illnesses, a new report indicates. Flint Michigan may have been just the tip of the iceberg.
Flint residents hold bottles of contaminated water after attending a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the water crisis.
Science Alert reports: “The chemicals in question are called PFASs, or Polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, and they’re a class of chemical used in the manufacture of things like paints, food packaging, leather, and fire-fighting foam, because they can repel both oil and water.”
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The chemicals are common in manufacturing, and most Americans have been exposed to them at some point, but higher levels of exposure is linked to “kidney cancer, elevated cholesterol, obesity, and hormone disruption.”
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Once a person is exposed, those chemicals can stick around for life. It’s virtually impossible to get rid of them.
“PFASs have been used over the past 60 years in industrial and commercial products, and studies have found that they can linger in the body for years, and almost never break down in the environment.”
Scientists analyzed over 36,000 water samples from 2013 to 2015. The results were suprising.
“They found that 66 public water supplies that cover 6 million Americans had at least one water sample that measured at or above the EPA recommended safety limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFASs.”
The Northeast contained most of the worst offenders.
“Newark, Delaware, and War-minster, Pennsylvania, showed particularly high concentration levels”
But problems were also found in California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
How is this happening? Waste-water treatment processes aren’t effectively removing PFASs. Manufacturers need to find ways to better treat waste-water on industrial sites to reduce PFASs levels.
“Most current waste-water treatment processes do not effectively remove PFASs,”
The EPA said that many water systems that violated the rules in 2015 have already resolved their problems. A revised Lead and Copper rule won’t appear until 2017 at the earliest, despite the widespread problems in Flint and beyond.
“Flint symbolizes how disastrous the gaps are in the system and there really is a much broader problem across America,” said Erik Olson, director of NRDC’s health program. “Americans take for granted that the water flowing from their taps is clean and safe but that assumption is often false.
“Providing safe drinking water to citizens is a fundamental government service. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job. Unsafe drinking water is a national problem and it needs a national solution.”