There are nearly 42,000 potential sources of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the United States, according to a new study published in the American Water Works Association Water Science journal. Several studies conducted in recent years have shown that most parts of the U.S. are contaminated with PFAS.
Early this year, a different study done by Lancaster University found high levels of PFAS in melting Arctic ice. The findings left more questions than answers, with researchers unable to tell the exact source of the forever chemicals.
In the latest study, researchers found that everyone in the U.S. is likely to be exposed to PFAS. According to lead author and Environmental Working Group (EWG) senior scientist David Andrews, it is time the EPA starts regulating the use of PFAS. He notes that communities living downstream from industrial areas are the most exposed to the contaminants.
The new study conducted by EWG scientists established that the primary sources of PFAS are solid waste landfills, oil refineries, wastewater treatment plants and electroplaters. The scientists reviewed data from the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online database.
“The results from states like Michigan show there is a wide variety of sources of PFAS in surface water,” Andrews said in the EWG press release. “Many landfills and industrial sites release PFAS at detectable concentrations that may exceed state limits or health guidelines for PFAS in water.”
Currently, this no limit for PFAS contamination in water. According to the study, the EPA is currently working on setting up rules to control the contamination levels in rivers. Several states have set their own limits.
“For example, state guidelines for exposure to PFOA have decreased approximately three orders of magnitude from 7000 ng/L [nanograms per liter], set by Minnesota in 2002, to 8 ng/L, set by Michigan in 2020,” the study authors wrote.
Lead image via Pexels