According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the known extent of contamination of American communities with the toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS continues to grow at an alarming rate, with no end in sight. As of March 2019, at least 610 locations in 43 states are known to be contaminated, including drinking water systems serving an estimated 19 million people.
The latest update of an interactive map by EWG and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University, documents publicly-known pollution from PFAS chemicals nationwide, including public water systems, military bases, military and civilian airports, industrial plants, dumps and firefighter training sites.
In July 2018, there were 172 contaminated sites in 40 states. This update draws from new data sources, so it is not directly comparable with the previous edition. But according to EWG, the crisis is spreading, and the new data may represent just the “tip of a toxic iceberg.”
PFAS chemicals, used in hundreds of consumer products, have been linked to weakened childhood immunity, thyroid disease, cancer and other health problems. PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and PFOS, formerly in 3M’s Scotchgard, have been phased out in the US, but manufacturers have replaced them with chemically similar, largely untested compounds that may be no safer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFAS chemicals contaminate the blood of virtually all Americans.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has utterly failed to address PFAS with the seriousness this crisis demands, leaving local communities and states to grapple with a complex problem rooted in the failure of the federal chemical regulatory system,” said Ken Cook, president of EWG, which has studied these compounds for almost two decades. “EPA must move swiftly to set a truly health-protective legal limit for all PFAS chemicals, requiring utilities to clean up contaminated water supplies.”
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