A team of researchers from Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group recently released a report that showed that numerous locations across the United States had drinking water contaminated with perfluorocarbons.
PFCs – highly fluorinated toxic chemicals, also known as PFASs, have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened immunity and other health problems.
New research from EWG and Northeastern University in Boston details PFC pollution in tap water supplies for 15 million Americans in 27 states and from more than four dozen industrial and military sources.
EWG and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern collaborated to produce an interactive map that combines federal drinking water data and information on all publicly documented cases of PFAS pollution from manufacturing plants, military air bases, civilian airports and fire training sites.
On the map, blue circles show public water systems where PFCs were detected in public drinking water systems – the larger the circle, the more people served by the system. Clicking on a circle brings up detailed information, including contamination levels. Red dots indicate a contamination site in Northeastern’s PFAS Contamination Site Tracker. Clicking on a dot brings up detailed information and links to more information and resources from the Institute.
The map, which will be updated as more contamination is discovered, is the most comprehensive resource available to track PFC pollution in the U.S. Its release coincides with a major PFAS conference June 14 and 15 at Northeastern which will bring together scientists, regulators, activists and others to examine a class of pollutants that contaminate water, soil, and the bodies of animals and people worldwide but were little known until recently.
The map focuses on the most well-studied fluorinated compounds – perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard. Because of their nonstick, waterproof and grease-repellent properties, these and closely related chemicals were used in hundreds of consumer products and industrial applications, including cookware, outdoor clothing, food packaging and firefighting foam..
PFOA and PFOS are known as “long-chain” PFCs because they are built around eight or more carbon atoms. They were phased out in the U.S. after information became known about their health hazards.
Despite widespread contamination and mounting evidence of health hazards, there are no federal regulations for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. Last year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dramatically lowered its nonbinding health advisory level to 70 parts per trillion for either chemical or the two combined.