Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Toxic Chemicals Found in Rainwater and Drinking Water Throughout the U.S.

Popular
A child walks from a flooded home after heavy rainfall on May 15, 2006 in Arlington, Massachusetts. Darren McCollester / Getty Images

Researchers found that rainwater in some parts of the U.S. have high levels of toxic chemicals. If the chemicals are found in similar levels in drinking water, it would spur regulatory action, according to The Guardian.



The research from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program, which works with the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey, found the toxic forever chemicals per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) present in rainwater samples from across the country, according to The Guardian.

The substances are dubbed forever chemicals because they do not degrade in the environment. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to various ailments, including cancers in humans and animals, especially in the kidneys and testicles. They have also been linked to thyroid disease, weakened immunity and other diseases, as NBC News reported.

While more than 4,700 variants of toxic forever chemicals have been identified, the EPA only regulates two of them: PFOS and PFOA. The chemicals are common in everyday items like insulation, food packaging, carpeting, cookware and firefighting foam, according to NBC News.

"There were folks not too long ago who felt the atmospheric transport route was not too important," said Martin Shafer, principal researcher with the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as The Guardian reported. "The data belies that statement."

Shafer and his team tested 37 samples of rainwater from 30 different areas, mostly on the East Coast, but extending as far west as Washington State and as far south as Alabama. Every single sample tested positive for at least one of the 36 different compounds that the scientists tested for. The largest sample was from Massachusetts and showed 5.5 nanograms (ng) per liter. Several other samples had a slightly smaller concentration of 4 ng per liter, while most samples showed concentrations that were less one ng per liter, according to The Guardian.

"There's a dearth of knowledge about what's supporting the atmospheric concentrations and ultimately deposition of PFAS," said Shaefer, as The Guardian reported. He suspects the PFAS are entering the atmosphere through various avenues, including factory emissions and fire-fighting foams.

Factory emissions polluting the rainwater was confirmed in North Carolina in a study from the state's division of air quality, which found over 500 ng per liter of PFAS in the rainwater near the Chemours facility, as The Guardian reported.

The scourge of PFAS has caused various health problems around military bases where the chemicals were once prominent in fire-fighting equipment. In those communities, levels of PFAS in water have been hundreds, and, on occasion, thousands of times higher that what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises. However, since most of those chemicals are not listed on the Safe Drinking Water Acts list of banned contaminants, there is no regulation that requires utilities to test for them, as NBC News reported.

The Department of Defense spending bill that Congress passed last week dropped key provisions that were written to reduce ongoing releases of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, remove PFAS from tap water and clean up legacy PFAS contamination, as the Environmental Working Group said in a press release. However, the spending bill did address the future use of PFAS, phasing out its use completely from fire-fighting foams by October 2024, according to the Military Times.

"When your water is polluted with toxic PFAS, it's not much comfort to know who is polluting it," said Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group's senior vice president for government affairs. "While it's good news that the Defense Department will finally phase out PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, communities desperately need Congress to tackle industrial PFAS releases into the air and water and to require DOD to clean up legacy PFAS pollution."

Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health told The Guardian that more research is needed on rainwater as well as the PFAS what we inhale and ingest.

"We see effects on liver, kidney, development, pregnancy, heart," she said to NBC News. "I think that's where many people are frustrated. Where there's pretty much growing, and I'd say fairly clear evidence of harm, EPA doesn't have the flexibility to move rapidly."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Wolf pups with their mother at their den site. Design Pics / Getty Images

In another reversal of Obama-era regulations, the Trump administration is having the National Park Service rescind a 2015 order that protected bears and wolves within protected lands.

Read More Show Less
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says this is a historic step for the group. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

By Linda Lacina

World Health Organization officials today announced the launch of the WHO Foundation, a legally separate body that will help expand the agency's donor base and allow it to take donations from the general public.

Read More Show Less
Because of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, in-person sessions are less possible. Merlas / Getty Images

By Nicholas Joyce

The coronavirus has resulted in stress, anxiety and fear – symptoms that might motivate a person to see a therapist. Because of social distancing, however, in-person sessions are less possible. For many, this has raised the prospect of online therapy. For clients in need of warmth and reassurance, could this work? Studies and my experience suggests it does.

Read More Show Less
A 17-year periodical cicada. Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As many parts of the planet continue to open their doors after pandemic closures, a new pest is expected to make its way into the world. After spending more than a decade underground, millions of cicadas are expected to emerge in regions of the southeastern U.S.

Read More Show Less
"Most of this fossil fuel finance flowed to wealthier countries," the report says, noting that China (pictured), Canada, Japan, and Korea provided the most public finance for dirty energy projects from 2016 to 2018.
Kevin Frayer / Stringer / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Even after the world's largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view shows new vehicles that were offloaded from ships at Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics on April 26, 2020 in Wilmington, California. "Vehicles are the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in America," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. David McNew / Getty Images

Twenty-three states and Washington, DC launched a suit Wednesday to stop the Trump administration rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A food delivery courier packs an order in Bangkok on March 25, 2020, after the government limited restaurants to takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic. MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP / Getty Images

By Tanika Godbole

Southeast Asia is one of the biggest sources of plastic waste from land to the ocean, and Thailand is among the top five contributors. In January, Thailand placed a ban on single-use plastic, and was looking to reduce its plastic waste by 30% this year.

Read More Show Less