New data shows 610 sites in 43 states contaminated with toxic PFAS chemicals

A screenshot of the PFAS contamination sites. Click here to view the interactive map from EWG.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of chemicals that are linked to cancer and other illnesses and we’ve written numerous times about the extent of their contamination of drinking water in the U.S. (even at military bases) and the EPA’s slow response to regulate these toxins. Now a new analysis put out by the Environmental Working Group has revealed that the known extent of contamination of American communities with the highly toxic fluorinated compounds continues to grow at an alarming rate, with no end in sight. “As of March 2019, at least 610 locations in 43 states are now known to be affected, including drinking water systems serving an estimated 19 million people.” Michigan is the state that’s most affected, followed by California and New Jersey.

PFAS chemicals pollute the blood of virtually all Americans, including newborn babies, and they persist forever in the environment. Take a look at the interactive map that EWG put out with this analysis, it’s truly shocking. As Think Progress explained, the authors of the analysis used data from sources including the federal Safe Drinking Water Information System and the Pentagon, to map the nationwide prevalence of PFAS. The version released Monday reflects an updated map — the last version was released in July 2018 and found 172 contaminated sites in 40 states.

More about the map:

  • Michigan is the state with the most locations on the map, with 192. The state’s PFAS contamination problem is severe, but the high number also reflects the state’s ongoing comprehensive multi-agency effort to test for PFAS. Michigan environmental officials have estimated that more than 11,000 sites in the state may be contaminated with PFAS. California has 47 known contamination sites and New Jersey has 43.
  • The map shows contamination of 117 military sites, including 77 military airports, a legacy of the Pentagon’s 50-year history of using firefighting foam with PFAS.
  • The estimate of 19 million Americans served by PFAS-contaminated water systems is imprecise, since public water systems don’t know how many people live or work at the addresses they serve. But the number may be much higher.
  • An EWG analysis of unreleased Environmental Protection Agency test data estimated that more than 1,500 drinking water systems, serving up to 110 million Americans, may be contaminated with PFAS chemicals.

Why This Matters: While states like Michigan have created a multi-agency effort to address PFAS contamination other states haven’t begun to address contamination in a coordinated way. All this shows how critical it is that the EPA finally take action on regulating PFAS at a federal level so it’s not left to a patchwork of state efforts to address this public health crisis. If the EPA wanted to, they could begin the rule-making process immediately to protect our citizens. As EWG noted, a bipartisan PFAS task force has been formed in Congress, and several PFAS bills have been introduced, including legislation to force the EPA to set a legal limit for all PFAS in drinking water, and to add PFAS to chemicals covered by the Superfund cleanup law. Now it’s time for the EPA to live up to its mission and protect human and environmental health.

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