The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
6 Million Americans in 33 States Are Drinking Toxic 'Teflon Chemicals' With Their Water
By Nika Knight
At least 6 million Americans in 33 states are being exposed to unsafe levels of industrial perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) chemicals in their drinking water, found a study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
"For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities were allowed to be used and released to the environment and we now have to face the severe consequences," one researcher said.Paul Domenick / Flickr
"And the available water data only reveals the tip of the iceberg of contaminated drinking water," said study co-author Dr. Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
The Washington Post details the researchers' findings:
194 of 4,864 water supplies across nearly three dozen states had detectable levels of the chemicals. Sixty-six of those water supplies, serving about six million people, had at least one sample that exceeded the EPA's [Environmental Protection Agency] recommended safety limit of 70 parts per trillion for two types of chemicals—perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
PFOA and PFOS chemical compounds—including C8, popularly known as the Teflon chemical—are extremely dangerous to human health and despite an EPA advisory released earlier this year and increasing calls for action, research shows they are near-ubiquitous in the U.S.
"Virtually all Americans are exposed to these compounds," Xindi Hu, the study's lead author and a doctoral student at Harvard's Department of Environmental Health, told the Post. "They never break down. Once they are released into the environment, they are there."
Moreover, the study also notes that research suggests "that exposure to these chemicals can make people sick, even at or below the concentration recommended as acceptable under the EPA health advisory," according to the Gazette-Mail.
"The EPA advisory limit ... is much too high to protect us against toxic effects on the immune system," said Grandjean to the Gazette-Mail.
PFOAs are the contentious center of a years-long legal battle against DuPont, which manufactured the chemical for decades—and dumped it into public waterways—despite knowing that it was severely harmful to human health and the environment. Thousands of personal injury cases are currently pending against the chemical giant.
The Gazette-Mail further reports:
DuPont and other companies have agreed on a voluntary phase-out of the chemical, but researchers noted in this week's study that declines in production in the U.S. and Europe have been offset by increases in developing regions such as Asia. Scientists have also been increasingly concerned about chemical contamination of consumer products and the new study provides important details about the potential threats from waste disposal practices and varying uses of the substances.
The dire situation is a result of decades of weak or no regulations, as Hu remarked to the Harvard Gazette: "For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities, such as [PFOAs], were allowed to be used and released to the environment and we now have to face the severe consequences."
"In addition, the actual number of people exposed may be even higher than our study found," Hu continued, "because government data for levels of these compounds in drinking water is lacking for almost a third of the U.S. population—about 100 million people."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.
By Shawn Radcliffe
- As illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to rise, health officials urge people to stop using e-cigarettes.
- Officials report 8 deaths have been linked to lung illnesses related to vaping.
- Vitamin E acetate is one compound officials are investigating as a potential cause for the outbreak.
By Julia Conley
As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world — making it the biggest climate protest ever — they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.
By Dan Gray
- Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
- A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
- It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.
New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.
By Jeff Turrentine
Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.