Experts explain how to reduce PFAS in drinking water

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Drinking water in the U.S. may be a little safer in the next three years detected in blood 98% of Americans.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a family of thousands of man-made chemicals that do not readily break down in the environment.Many PFAS and serious health problemsincluding cancer, fertility problems, high cholesterol, hormone disorders, liver damage, obesity, and thyroid disease.

The EPA proposed on Tuesday strict new restrictions Levels of six PFAS chemicals in public water supplies. Under the proposed rule, public systems that provide water to at least 15 service connections or 25 people would have three years to implement testing procedures, begin informing the public of PFAS levels and reduce levels if they are above the new standards, the EPA said.

The EPA says PFOA and PFOS, two of the most well-studied and potentially toxic chemicals, should not be present in drinking water at more than 4 parts per trillion, compared with the previous health recommendation of 70 parts per trillion.

Four other chemicals—PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX—will undergo hazard index calculations to determine whether levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk. The calculation is “a tool that EPA uses to address the cumulative risk of all four of these chemicals,” said Melanie Benesh, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a consumer group that monitors PFAS and other chemical exposures.

“EPA’s action is a very important and historic step forward,” Benesh said. “While the proposed regulations only address a small number of PFAS, they are important flagged chemicals. I think requiring water systems to test for and treat these six substances would actually go a long way toward addressing other PFAS in the water as well. ”

For someone concerned about PFAS exposure, three years or so is a long time. What can consumers do now to limit the levels of PFAS in drinking water?

First, check the levels of PFAS in your local public water supply, suggests David Andrews, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group.Advocacy nonprofit creates a national tap water database searchable by zip code lists PFAS and other relevant chemicals, and country map This illustrates where PFAS is detected in the United States.

However, not all water companies currently test for pollutants, and many rural residents rely on wells for water. Andrews said anyone who wanted to test their water in person could buy a test online or from a certified lab.

“The most important thing is to make sure that the testing methods can detect PFAS at least four parts per trillion or lower,” he said. “There are a large number of laboratories across the country that are accredited to perform this level of testing, so there are a lot of options.”

Consumers can purchase water filters for their taps if levels are a concern. NSF, formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation, has Recommended filter list.

“The most effective water filter for PFAS is a reverse osmosis filter, which is more expensive, around $200 or so,” says Andrews. Reverse osmosis filters can remove a variety of contaminants, including dissolved solids, by forcing water through various filters.

“Granular activated carbon filters are more common and less expensive, but they are not as effective or consistent with PFAS,” he said, “although they can also remove a large number of other pollutants.”

Installing reverse osmosis filters for your faucets is an effective way to remove potentially toxic chemicals from your drinking water.

Andrews explained that reverse osmosis systems use both carbon-based filters and reverse osmosis membranes. Water passes through a carbon filter before entering the membrane.

“The important thing is that you have to keep changing those filters,” he said. “If you don’t replace that filter, when it becomes saturated, you can actually have higher levels of PFAS in the filtered water than in the tap water.”

Carbon filters are typically replaced every six months, “while reverse osmosis filters are replaced every five years,” he adds. “Over their lifetimes, the costs are relatively comparable.”

Another positive: Many of the filters that work with PFAS also filter out other pollutants in the water, Andrews said.

Drinking water isn’t the only way PFAS can enter the bloodstream. Thousands of PFAS are used in many of the products we buy, including nonstick cookware, anti-infective surgical gowns and drapes, cell phones, semiconductors, commercial aircraft and low-emission vehicles.

These chemicals are also used in the manufacture of carpets, clothing, furniture and food packaging to protect against stains, water and oil damage. Once treated, textiles release PFAS throughout their life cycle and escape into the air and groundwater of homes and communities, the report said.

Consists of a chain of interconnected carbon and fluorine atoms easy Degrading in the environment, PFAS are known as “forever chemicals”.Because of their long half-life in the body, PFAS can take years to completely leave the body, according to a study 2022 Report Formed by the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

“Some of these chemicals have half-lives in the five-year range,” National Academy of Sciences Committee member Jane Hoppin, environmental epidemiologist and Director, Center for Human Health and the Environment, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, previously told CNN.

“Let’s say you have 10 nanograms of PFAS in your body now. Even with no additional exposure, you’ll still have 5 nanograms in five years.

“After five years, you’ll get 2.5 nanograms, and then five years later, you’ll have 1.25 nanograms,” she continued. “It takes about 25 years for all the PFAS to leave your body.”

The 2022 National Academies report sets a “nanogram” level of concern and encourages clinicians to perform blood testing on patients who are concerned about exposure or are at high risk. (A nanogram is equivalent to one billionth of a gram.)

People in “fragile life stages” – such as during fetal development during pregnancy, early childhood and old age – are at high risk, the report said. So are firefighters, workers at fluorochemical manufacturing plants, and those who live near commercial airports, military bases, landfills, incinerators, wastewater treatment plants, and farms that use contaminated sewage sludge.

The PFAS-REACH (Research, Education, and Action in Community Health) project, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, offers the following recommendations on how to avoid PFAS in homes and products:

  • Stay away from stain-resistant carpet and upholstery, and don’t use waterproofing sprays.
  • Look for the ingredient Teflon or PTFE or other “fluorine” ingredients on the product label.
  • Avoid nonstick pans. Instead, use cast iron, stainless steel, glass, or enameled items.
  • Boycott takeout containers and other food packaging. Instead, cook at home and eat fresh food.
  • Avoid microwave popcorn or greasy food wrapped in paper.
  • Choose uncoated nylon or silk floss or floss coated with natural wax.

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