Water Study Finds PFAS “Forever Chemicals” in Nearly Half of All U.S. Faucets

July 6, 2023

A study released Wednesday from the U.S. Geological Survey found that “forever chemicals” known as PFAS are present in some 45% of all U.S. tap water.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down naturally in the environment. Used since the 1940s in such products as non-stick pans, food packaging, water-repellant sports gear, stain-resistant carpeting and cosmetics, “forever chemicals” have been linked to numerous health problems, including liver damage, immune system damage and some cancers.

The Environmental Protection Agency in March proposed limiting “forever chemicals” in U.S. drinking water to the lowest level that testing can detect.

The new study from the USGS involved the testing of tap water in 716 locations, including 269 wells and 447 public supply sites. The tests were conducted in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington DC.

“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,” USGS research hydrologist Kelly Smalling, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

The test—the first time researchers compared PFAS levels in both private and government-regulated tap water supplies—searched for the presence of 32 different kinds of PFAS, though more than 12,000 types exist. 

Earlier this year the EPA allocated $2 billion to states to rid their water of contaminants such as PFAS, as part of the funding from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The EPA is also providing support to smaller communities to install new water treatment systems. 

And last month, chemicals manufacturer 3M agreed to pay $10.3 billion to settle a lawsuit over “forever chemicals” in drinking water systems.

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