New Orleans has toxic “forever chemicals” in its drinking water, according to new independent lab results published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The report states:
“New laboratory tests commissioned by EWG have for the first time found the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in the drinking water of dozens of U.S. cities, including major metropolitan areas. The results confirm that the number of Americans exposed to PFAS from contaminated tap water has been dramatically underestimated by previous studies, both from the Environmental Protection Agency and EWG’s own research.
In 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS, contamination has not been publicly reported by the Environmental Protection Agency or state environmental agencies. Because PFAS are not regulated, utilities that have chosen to test independently are not required to make their results public or report them to state drinking water agencies or the EPA.
The report explains:
“PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because once released into the environment they do not break down, and they build up in our blood and organs. Exposure to PFAS increases the risk of cancer, harms the development of the fetus and reduces the effectiveness of vaccines. Biomonitoring studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the blood of nearly all Americans is contaminated with PFAS.
“The most notorious PFAS compounds are PFOA, formerly used by DuPont to make Teflon, and PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard. Those compounds have been phased out under pressure from the EPA, but they persist in drinking water, people and the environment. In EWG’s tests, PFOA was detected in 30 of 44 samples, and PFOS in 34 samples. The two compounds represented approximately a quarter of the total PFAS level in each sample.”
“Fluorinated” PFAS chemicals (short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are most recently known because of the 2019 movie Dark Waters, which explained how PFAs cause cancer and death. The movie focuses on pollution created by a DuPont facility in West Virginia linking water contamination to health problems and deaths of residents.
PFAS chemicals were detected in 43 of 44 cities tested last year, EWG notes.
“PFAS in drinking water is not okay,” Environmental Working Group study co-author Sydney Evans told BuzzFeed News. The chemicals are in the drinking water of cities including Miami, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.
EWG tested for 30 PFAS chemicals within the guidelines suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of 70 parts-per-trillion (ppt) limit on the two major PFAS chemicals.
According to EWG, the drinking water samples it analyzed found concentrations of PFAS chemicals that were higher than the lower limits in more than a dozen places. The highest levels of contamination were found in North Carolina and Iowa, according to the report.
“To date, EPA has developed methods to reliably detect 29 PFAS chemicals in drinking water,” an agency spokesperson told BuzzFeed News by email. “Aggressively addressing PFAS will continue to be an EPA priority in 2020 and we will provide additional information on our upcoming actions as it becomes available.”
EWG mapped PFAS contamination of drinking water or ground water found at 1,400 sites in 49 states.
It states, “our analysis of unpublished EPA data estimates that water supplies for 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS – an estimate that could be much too low, based on our new findings.”