Communities Across the U.S. Worry Over Contaminated Drinking Water

August 15, 2018, 7:26 PM UTC

Tap water is unsafe for drinking in dozens of communities across the country due to the contamination of long-lasting synthetic chemicals, Business Insider reports. These chemicals, known as PFAS (short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), have been used since the 1940s to make man-made products resistant to grease, water, or stains, but the durable chemical can last thousands of years in the environment.

This can pose dangerous threats to the people in these communities. Business Insider says negative effects of the chemicals include liver damage, high cholesterol, low birth rates, chronic kidney disease, and more. According to the National Center for Environmental Health, it takes 2 to 9 years for concentrations of the potentially carcinogenic chemical to decline by half in the human body.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been holding community engagement sessions this summer in areas around the country most affected by PFAS, including towns in Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and North Carolina. Community members are demanding the EPA take action to clean their water, the Associated Press reports.

Concerns over PFAS were raised when a study done earlier this year showed the EPA’s advisory levels were several times too high for human safety. A Trump aide called the study a “public relations nightmare,” Politico reports, and the administration attempted to block the study’s publication.

However, the chemicals have been an ongoing issue. Earlier this year, Michigan declared a state of emergency in one county to address the dangerously high levels of PFAS in the drinking water. Meanwhile, Minnesota settled a $850 million lawsuit with 3M in February, after eight years of litigation over a chemical it allegedly leaked into state water supply.

A study in Environmental Research, a peer-reviewed journal, says roughly 6 million Americans drink water with PFAS levels above EPA recommendations. To review the status of your community’s water, you can check your area’s Consumer Confidence Report.