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Six million Americans drinking water containing unsafe levels of unregulated chemicals, study finds
In one Delaware town, the levels of one such chemical in the water supply were 25 times higher than the EPA deems safe
By Tim Walker
9 August 2016
More than six million people in the US are drinking water contaminated with unsafe levels of chemicals linked to cancer, obesity and other conditions, according to a new study by Harvard University researchers.
The chemicals polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl, commonly referred to as PFASs, are used in a vast range of consumer products, from leather to food packaging and from non-stick pan coating to fire-fighting foam.
Long-term exposure to such substances is thought to lead to a higher risk of kidney cancer, high cholesterol and thyroid problems. Researchers from Harvard’s public health and engineering and applied sciences schools found levels of PFASs beyond what is considered safe by the US government in multiple sources of public drinking water across 33 states.
The researchers analysed concentrations of PFASs from more than 36,000 drinking water samples collected between 2013 and 2015. Of the 4,864 water sources studied, 66 threw up at least one sample containing more than 70 parts per trillion of two types of PFASs – the safety limit set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Those 66 water sources supply some six million consumers in total.
Some locations were more affected than others: the water in Warminster, Pennsylvania had levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) almost five times higher than the EPA safety limit. In Newark, Delaware, the levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in the drinking water supply were 25 times higher than the agency deems safe.
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