You pay your water bill every month, and you expect the water you drink to be safe. Unfortunately, a 9-month investigation from the Guardian and Consumer Reports found unsafe levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water across the United States. According to the Guardian:
“A total of 118 of the 120 samples had concerning levels of PFAS or arsenic above CR’s recommended maximum, or detectable amounts of lead.”
What Are PFAS?
PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of potentially toxic chemicals found in hundreds of household products. Although the Guardian/Consumer Reports investigation focused heavily on PFAS, and these forever chemicals are “linked to learning delays in children, cancer, and other health problems,” many consumers do not know what PFAS are. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet set standards for PFAS in drinking water.
Nevertheless, CR’s scientists say, “the maximum allowed amount should be 5 ppt [parts per trillion] for a single PFAS chemical and 10 ppt for two or more,” due to ongoing investigations into the health effects of PFAS exposure. Research has linked PFAS to high cholesterol, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension, learning delays in children, and decreased vaccine response in children.
Consumer Reports found more than 1/3 of its 120 drinking water samples had PFAS levels above 10 ppt, and 2 samples had levels above 70 ppt – the federal advisory level for PFAS.
Arsenic and Lead
Unlike PFAS, arsenic and lead are subject to federal regulation. CR’s limit for arsenic is 3 parts per billion (ppb), and the EPA’s limit is 10 ppb due to the price of corrective action. Similarly, there is no safe amount of lead in drinking water, and the EPA will act to lower lead levels when samples from drinking water exceed 15 ppb.
In its testing, Consumer Reports found measurable levels of arsenic in almost every sample, and about 8% of samples had arsenic levels between 3 and 10 ppb. Meanwhile, almost every sample had measurable levels of lead, and one test showed a lead concentration of 31.2 ppb.
Who Is to Blame?
Corporate contamination, deteriorating infrastructure, and inadequate treatment at water plants are to blame for the quality crisis facing U.S. drinking water. For example, the EPA estimates that 3 to 6 million homes and businesses still get water through lead pipes or older water lines that contain lead.
Keeping toxic chemicals out of drinking water is expensive, and sadly, many of America’s utility providers are unwilling to pay the cost.
What Can I Do?
Filtering tap water helps remove lead and other toxic chemicals from drinking water. Still, the consumer should not be responsible for making sure their water is safe. If you are concerned about your water, you have every right to alert your utility. Some utilities offer free tests for lead and other chemicals, and most cities publish a consumer confidence report (CCR) each year. You can also have your water tested with an EPA-certified lab to find out whether or not your water is contaminated.
If you find concerning levels of arsenic, lead, or PFAS in your drinking water, file a complaint with your utility and purchase a water filtration system. Keep an eye on your health, as well, because contaminated water can inspire litigation.
If a company exposes you to toxic chemicals via unsafe water, and you get sick or sustain an injury as a result, we may be able to help.
Call us at (866) 675-4427 or contact us online to tell us about your case – we offer free consultations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.