The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Thursday that so-called "forever chemicals" exist at unsafe levels in the drinking water of roughly 46 million Americans. Specifically, the toxic chemicals known as PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) were present in one out of four public drinking water systems in quantities at or above the agency's minimum reporting levels.
PFAS are known as "forever chemicals" because of their indestructible nature. They are used in thousands of common household products, particularly those that are meant to be waterproofed or stain-resistant. PFAS have also been linked to a wide range of health conditions, including liver and fertility issues. The most recent results raise questions about the need for better monitoring and further investigation of PFAS in the water supply. Indeed, as the EPA pointed out in its statement on the findings, it only includes results received as of Oct. 5, 2023 and represents "approximately 15% of the total results that EPA expects to receive until completion of data reporting in 2026."
This is not the first report to raise awareness about PFAS in drinking water. An April study in the journal Science of the Total Environment found that more than two-thirds of the water samples (30 out of 44) from communities in 16 states contained PFAS. Moreover, all of those contaminated samples had at least one PFAS that would not be detected with the EPA's existing monitoring standards. A map with the locations of PFAS in drinking water from the EPA study can be found here.