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6 Million Americans Have Unsafe Levels of Toxic Chemicals in Their Drinking Water

Harvard researchers analyzed levels of PFASs in over 36,000 water samples

Polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a class of industrial chemicals that repel both oil and water and are used in paints and fire fighting foam among other applications.

We spoke with Xindi Hu from the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School, to find out what health impacts these chemical compounds could be having, and how they are entering waterways. Hu is the author of a study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters Aug. 9.

What led you to examine PFAS levels in drinking water?

Xindi Hu: Virtually all Americans are exposed to PFAS, and drinking water can be an important source of exposure. Exposure to PFASs have been linked to a wide range of adverse health effects, including kidney cancer, elevated cholesterol, obesity, and endocrin

Previously, industrial sites that manufacture and produce PFASs were identified as important point sources, but to date no nationwide studies had been done that linked point sources to PFASs in drinking water. The health concerns around PFASs have led the Environmental Protection Agency to add six PFASs to the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule program.

Our study is the first time a national database on PFASs drinking water levels has been made available.

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