Harmful Water Contamination Present in Nearly All U.S. States


PFAS contamination 43 states
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Researchers now estimate that 19 million Americans face dangerous chemical exposure from the water coming from their sinks and faucets.

Over 600 public water systems, military bases, airports, industrial plants, and other sites contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.

Worse, this is a wide-spread problem affecting people in 43 states, according to new research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

“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 the Environmental Working Group.

Findings of EWG’s Report

The study’s conclusions should worry all Americans, according to an EWG senior scientist David Andrews. PFAS contamination 43 states

The report’s companion, an interactive map, visually illustrates marks each of the known 610 contamination sites.

The group makes clear that the data comes from public information, their report compiles available information and aims to illustrate the severity of PFAS contamination throughout the country.

Moreover, the problem is expanding.

In 2018, EWG released a similar map, which showed 172 contaminated sites in 40 states. They do make clear, however, that previous editions did not contain the full range of data sources used in their most recent version.

“[The new report] is not directly comparable with the previous edition. But clearly, the crisis is spreading, and the new data may represent just the tip of a toxic iceberg,” EWG writes. “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.”

Impacts on the Latinos and All Americans

Latinos, who face significant health inequities such as housing, transportation, and green space, should be aware that PFAS exposure can raise their chance of being diagnosed with life-threatening complications.

Many health concerns can develop through contact with these harmful substances, and they can impact people of all ages, according to the CDC.

Adverse health complications caused by firefighting chemicals include: PFAS contamination 43 states

  • Affecting growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
  • Lowering a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
  • Interfering with the body’s natural hormones
  • Increasing cholesterol levels
  • Affecting the immune system
  • Increasing risks of cancer

Still, action is needed to prompt change.

The Problems That Lie Ahead

The Safe Drinking Water Act has no binding PFAS regulations. However, the EPA does set their suggestive health advisory level at 70 parts per trillion (ppt).

The EWG would like to see that standard, or lack thereof, change.

As part of their report, the group also released a PFAS standards proposal that suggests PFAS limits be limited to 1 ppt.

PFAS contamination 43 states
Graphic by The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

“EPA must move swiftly to set a truly health-protective legal limit for all PFAS chemicals, requiring utilities to clean up contaminated water supplies,” Cook said.

For more information about clean water justice and access, join our upcoming #SaludTues Tweetchat from 1-2 p.m. ET (Noon-1 p.m. CT) on Tuesday, May 21, 2019!

Latinos and all Americans can also speak up about another issue impacting clean water access by urging the EPA not to provide companies with a loophole to pollute our waters.


Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America! and the Hoffman Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) program at UT Health- San Antonio. To find out if you are TILTed due to exposure to everyday foods, chemicals, or drugs, take a self-assessment or learn more about TILT.

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