EWG Report: Your Tap Water is Contaminated with Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’

Here’s something you may not know: tens of millions of people in the United States have been drinking toxic tap water contaminated with unregulated fluoridated chemicals – chemicals which have been linked to cancer, liver and kidney toxicity, hormone disruption, and more.

In early 2018, the Environmental Working Group released a report revealing that up to 16 million Americans could be exposed to water contaminated with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – a class of toxic chemicals that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The report showed that there is known PFAS pollution from ’94 sites in 22 states, including industrial plants and dumps, military air bases, civilian airports and fire training sites’ – including the tap water pollution for 16 million people across 33 states and Puerto Rico.

 

Interestingly, that report was just the start of it. Soon, that 16 million figured got bumped up to 110 million! That’s right, 110 million people could be exposed via more than 1,500 drinking water systems throughout the United States.

Now, a new extensive report from the EWG goes into depth on the true nature of this widespread water contamination.

Current data suggests that PFAS are present in tap water in 44 locations spanning 31 states and Washington D.C. These stats are miles ahead of previous findings, showing that any reporting of PFAS contamination has been drastically underestimated, both by the Environmental Working Group’s previous reports and even reports generated by official government bodies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Actually, the EWG’s research surpasses that of the EPA, finding more widespread contamination that even exceeds ‘safe’ levels set by the EPA. In 2016, the EPA released a non-enforceable ‘lifetime health advisory’ in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion (PPT), indicating that levels below 70 PPT were safe. However, by both EWG and other independent study standards, ‘safe’ levels for PFAS in drinking water should be more like 1 PPT – markedly lower than 70 PPT.

This soft, non-enforced rule has caused some states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, and New Jersey to set their own standards. This is what states have to do when the EPA, knowing about this contamination issue since 2001, takes little action on addressing it.

Why You Should Avoid These Chemicals Whenever Possible

Unlike other chemicals PFAS never actually break down once released into the environment, leading them to be dubbed ‘forever chemicals.’ As mentioned earlier, exposure to these chemicals may cause a host of health issues, including (but not limited to):

  • Cancer
  • Immune system suppression
  • Thyroid issues and other hormone disruptions
  • Infant developmental issues
  • Liver damage

What Products Contain PFAS?

Many products are made with these compounds. They are most known for being used in the product of non-stick cookware (yikes), but are also used to make stain-resistant sofas and carpets, waterproof clothing and mattresses, and could even be in food packaging. What’s more, due to their ability to help reduce friction, other industries including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics use these chemicals.

Here is a quick list of where you might find PFAS:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Food packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers
  • Stain resistant carpets and furniture
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Waterproof mattresses
  • Outdoor gear with a “durable water repellent” coating

How to Reduce Exposure to PFAS

While others may say differently and it’s great to avoid toxins whenever possible, I wouldn’t go as far to live in a bubble or overly stress about this. If you did, you might literally go insane. With that said, here are some steps to take if you want to reduce exposure to PFAS:

  • Most clear and simple in my book – don’t use non-stick cookware. If you choose to continue using non-stick cookware, be careful not to let it heat to above 450ºF
  • Stay away from fast food packaging (a good all-around tip) and microwaved popcorn
  • Avoid stain-resistance carpets or furniture – and don’t use anything yourself that would make it stain resistant!
  • Avoid other stain-resistant products such as treated shoes, luggage, and camping and sporting equipment
  • Avoid personal-care products made with Teflon™ or containing ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or “perfluoro.” You might find this in floss or cosmetics

EWG Report: Your Tap Water is Contaminated with Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’

Here’s something you may not know: tens of millions of people in the United States have been drinking toxic tap water contaminated with unregulated fluoridated chemicals – chemicals which have been linked to cancer, liver and kidney toxicity, hormone disruption, and more.

In early 2018, the Environmental Working Group released a report revealing that up to 16 million Americans could be exposed to water contaminated with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – a class of toxic chemicals that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The report showed that there is known PFAS pollution from ’94 sites in 22 states, including industrial plants and dumps, military air bases, civilian airports and fire training sites’ – including the tap water pollution for 16 million people across 33 states and Puerto Rico.

 

Interestingly, that report was just the start of it. Soon, that 16 million figured got bumped up to 110 million! That’s right, 110 million people could be exposed via more than 1,500 drinking water systems throughout the United States.

Now, a new extensive report from the EWG goes into depth on the true nature of this widespread water contamination.

Current data suggests that PFAS are present in tap water in 44 locations spanning 31 states and Washington D.C. These stats are miles ahead of previous findings, showing that any reporting of PFAS contamination has been drastically underestimated, both by the Environmental Working Group’s previous reports and even reports generated by official government bodies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Actually, the EWG’s research surpasses that of the EPA, finding more widespread contamination that even exceeds ‘safe’ levels set by the EPA. In 2016, the EPA released a non-enforceable ‘lifetime health advisory’ in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion (PPT), indicating that levels below 70 PPT were safe. However, by both EWG and other independent study standards, ‘safe’ levels for PFAS in drinking water should be more like 1 PPT – markedly lower than 70 PPT.

This soft, non-enforced rule has caused some states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, and New Jersey to set their own standards. This is what states have to do when the EPA, knowing about this contamination issue since 2001, takes little action on addressing it.

Why You Should Avoid These Chemicals Whenever Possible

Unlike other chemicals PFAS never actually break down once released into the environment, leading them to be dubbed ‘forever chemicals.’ As mentioned earlier, exposure to these chemicals may cause a host of health issues, including (but not limited to):

  • Cancer
  • Immune system suppression
  • Thyroid issues and other hormone disruptions
  • Infant developmental issues
  • Liver damage

What Products Contain PFAS?

Many products are made with these compounds. They are most known for being used in the product of non-stick cookware (yikes), but are also used to make stain-resistant sofas and carpets, waterproof clothing and mattresses, and could even be in food packaging. What’s more, due to their ability to help reduce friction, other industries including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics use these chemicals.

Here is a quick list of where you might find PFAS:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Food packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers
  • Stain resistant carpets and furniture
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Waterproof mattresses
  • Outdoor gear with a “durable water repellent” coating

How to Reduce Exposure to PFAS

While others may say differently and it’s great to avoid toxins whenever possible, I wouldn’t go as far to live in a bubble or overly stress about this. If you did, you might literally go insane. With that said, here are some steps to take if you want to reduce exposure to PFAS:

  • Most clear and simple in my book – don’t use non-stick cookware. If you choose to continue using non-stick cookware, be careful not to let it heat to above 450ºF
  • Stay away from fast food packaging (a good all-around tip) and microwaved popcorn
  • Avoid stain-resistance carpets or furniture – and don’t use anything yourself that would make it stain resistant!
  • Avoid other stain-resistant products such as treated shoes, luggage, and camping and sporting equipment
  • Avoid personal-care products made with Teflon™ or containing ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or “perfluoro.” You might find this in floss or cosmetics

A Third of Fast-Food Packaging Contains Dangerous Chemicals

Most people are aware that fast-food has no redeeming qualities, but never give a second thought to the paper their burgers come wrapped in. But even fast-food packaging can make you sick, as pointed out by research published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. This is yet another example of how fast-food wrappers contain dangerous chemicals – called fluorinated chemicals. [1]

Researchers tested 400 fast-food packages from various restaurants in the U.S. and found that more than a third of them contained poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These chemicals are everywhere – in non-stick pans, pizza boxes, cell phones, and even in backpacks. In fast-food wrappers, they are used as a coating to repel moisture. [2]

Two PFAS – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) – have been shown to cause:

  • Testicular and kidney cancer
  • Liver malfunction
  • Hormonal changes
  • Thyroid disruption
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Lower birth weight and size
Source: Run Healthy Lifestyle

Xenia Trier, a chemist at the European Environment Agency who was not involved with the study, says:

“These chemicals are very convenient. You can use something like paper. If it’s untreated it will soak fat, it will soak water. As such it’s not very efficient as a food container. If you impregnate these food containers with these [chemicals] they get this magic—they work for everything.” [1]

She adds that, “unfortunately we do know they are quite toxic and have been associated with many diseases.”

Past studies have shown that PFASs on food packaging can seep into your food, said Laurel Schaider, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and one of the authors of the paper.

She said:

“These studies have found that the extent of migration depends on the temperature of the food, the type of food and how long the food is in contact with the paper. And it depends on which specific chemical” is in the packaging. [2]

In 2011, after the FDA reviewed packaging materials, several manufacturers voluntarily agreed to stop using PFASs in their food packaging products. The presence of elements of fluorine may not be manufacturers’ fault, the researchers say. Rather, it may have entered the system from the use of recycled materials. [3]

Recently, the FDA has been urged once again to launch a study into the consequences of using chemicals like phthalates in food packagingThis is more proof that our food packaging is tainted with toxins.

Would You Like Toxins With That?

For the study, which involved researchers from 5 different institutions, more than 400 samples of fast-food packaging was collected from 27 leading U.S. food chains, and divided into 6 categories:

  • Food contact paper (sandwich wrappers and pastry bags)
  • Food contact paperboard (pizza and French fry boxes)
  • Non-contact paper (outer bags)
  • Paper cups
  • Other beverage containers (milk and juice containers)
  • Miscellaneous (lids) [2]

Food contact papers were divided into 3 categories:

  • Sandwiches
  • Burgers
  • Fried foods

Of the food contact papers tested, 46% tested positive for fluorine, a marker of PFASs. Food contact paperboard came in 2nd, at 20%, followed by other beverage containers at 16%. All of the other categories tested negative for fluorine.

Tex-Mex food packaging and dessert and bread wrappers were the worst offenders, and were more likely to contain fluorine than other categories of food packaging. [3]

Avoiding PFASs

Hopefully you don’t eat fast-food often, but even if you’re a once-in-a-while diet cheater, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from PFASs:

  • Take food out of its packaging immediately.
  • Ask that your fries of dessert be served in a paper cup or noncontact paper bag – that outer bag that all your items are usually put into when you get your food. [2]

There are plenty of fluorine-free products that manufacturers can use, so if the idea of eating something that was wrapped in chemicals used to main raincoats bothers you, pressure your fast-food chains to cut out PFASs.

Schaider says:

“I think that this study provides yet another reason to support the idea that eating more fresh food and more home-cooked meals is better for our health, but it’s hard to avoid the convenience of fast food, especially in people’s busy lives.”

Sources:

[1] Popular Science

[2] CNN

[3] Consumer Affairs

Run Healthy Lifestyle

EPA: Newer Nonstick Compounds ‘Just as Toxic’ as Others

Newer nonstick compounds that were supposed to be safer than previous ones may be just as toxic, even in minuscule amounts, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study released on November 14 shows. [1]

First, here is some background information straight from the EPA about the chemicals that will be mentioned in this article.

“Federal, state, tribal, and local governments are working together to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment. PFAS are man-made chemicals used in a wide range of products because of their ability to repel water, grease, and oil.

While PFOA and PFOS are the two most extensively produced and studied chemicals in the group, EPA is asking for public comment on draft toxicity assessments for GenX chemicals and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) to increase the amount of information the public has on other PFAS.”

GenX is a trade name for a technology that is used to make high performance fluoropolymers (e.g., some nonstick coatings) without the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

PFBS is a replacement chemical for PFOS, a chemical that was voluntarily phased out by its U.S. manufacturers …”

GenX chemicals and PFBS are both forms of PFAS.

The report suggests that exposure to very low levels of GenX chemicals can be dangerous. What’s more, two compounds from the same family that have already been removed from manufacturing in the U.S. have been found to be dangerous at levels lower than 100 parts per trillion (ppt).

Federal toxicology officials say the 2 of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, are significantly more harmful than previously realized. In a confidential e-mail released earlier in 2018 via open-records laws, an unidentified White House official called the discovery “a potential public relations nightmare.” [1] [2]

This is the first time the EPA has taken a closer look at the so-called GenX family of nonstick coatings, which have been turning up in dangerous levels in drinking water nationwide.

Residents and public health officials in North Carolina are particularly concerned as these chemicals have shown up in the water supply of thousands of people who live downstream of a Chemours Co. plant that produces the compound outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Actually, drinking water contamination has been the main concern cited by public health officials and regulators in relation to the family of compounds.

And how might these compounds affect you? Well, oral exposure to PFAS has the potential to affect the kidneys, blood, immune system, liver, and developing fetuses, the EPA study shows. The report states that the findings “are suggestive of cancer.”

It goes on to say:

“Toxicity is only 1 piece of information that public officials consider when determining whether there is a risk to public health. Other factors, such as exposure, must also be considered.” [1]

David Andrews, Ph.D., senior scientist at Environmental Working Group (EWG), said: [2]

“It is alarming that, 12 years after DuPont, 3M, and other companies, under pressure from EPA, began phasing out PFOA and PFOS, we find that replacements like GenX are nearly as hazardous to human health.

EPA scientists have given us valuable new information here, but the study’s real significance is to show that the entire chemical regulatory system is broken. EPA has allowed hundreds of similar chemicals on the market without safety testing, and it’s urgent that the agency evaluate the risk Americans face from all of these chemicals combined.”

The EWG’s own testing shows that the so-called safer compounds are nearly as toxic as those they replaced, even at very tiny doses.

Even if you don’t use non-stick cookware, you are likely being exposed to these compounds anyway, as they are also used as non-stick coatings on food wrappers, outdoor clothing, and many other products.  A 2017 EWG report found GenX compounds in food wrapping samples from 27 different fast food chains (just another reason to avoid fast food).

Andrews said:

“The system has it backwards: Instead of putting the burden of proof on EPA to show that chemicals like GenX are safe, the chemical industry should be responsible for testing its products for safety before they’re put on the market. This broken system has enabled DuPont and other companies to contaminate nearly everyone on Earth, including babies in the womb, with these chemicals.”

Sources:

[1] Associated Press

[2] Environmental Working Group

The Intercept