Toxic Chemicals Turned Up In The Drinking Water Of Dozens Of Cities

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Flint public utilities drinking water
Thorough testing by an environmental advocacy group has uncovered toxic chemicals in the drinking water in dozens of cities across the U.S. Volunteers deliver clean drinking water to residents during the Flint water crisis on Jan. 13, 2016. Photo: Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division/Flickr

A new round of testing by an environmental advocacy group has uncovered toxic chemicals in the drinking water in dozens of cities across the U.S. including major metropolitan areas.

The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Environmental Working Group found drinking water contaminated with PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances).

PFAS are a group of industrial chemicals that have been used in consumer products such as food packaging, non-stick pans, and waterproof fabric.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to reduced immune, an increased risk of developing some cancers and high cholesterol levels.

The cities tested included Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, New York and Washington. The group’s findings showed that the toxic chemicals were found in drinking water in more than 40 locations.

PFAS are not regulated. So utilities that choose to test independently are not required to make their results public or report them to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or State Drinking Water Agency.

The highest levels appeared in Brunswick County, North Carolina and Quad Cities, Iowa, according to EWG’s testing.

PFAS exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory level in these two cities, while New York City had the lowest PFAS levels in drinking water in the country.

Such widespread PFAS chemicals in drinking water was not shown in earlier surveys conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Working Group.

The Environmental Working Group tested for thirty PFAS chemicals rather than the two most common ones.

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“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,” an agency spokesperson told Buzz Feed News.

Several PFAS-related provisions were passed along with the National Defence Authorization Act in 2019, but advocates said it fell short by failing to establish firm drinking water standards and labeling PFAS as a hazardous substance under the Federal Superfund Law.