- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Researchers from an environmental activist group said they have discovered more contaminants linked to cancer and other health conditions in drinking water throughout the U.S. this year than two years ago. 

A report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published Wednesday revealed that 324 contaminants were detected in drinking water this year compared to the 268 chemicals identified in tap water by utility companies in 2019.  

The 56 new chemicals are “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, or are from the Environmental Protection Agency‘s fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule round of testing, which required water systems to test for new chemicals such as radioactive material and pesticides, according to the EWG. 

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water has demonstrated for decades that it is utterly incapable of standing up to pressure from water utilities and polluters to protect human health from the dozens of toxic contaminants in America’s drinking water,” EWG President Ken Cook said in a statement.

“The EPA has become very good at constantly reassuring the public that all is well with the water coming out of their taps. That message is music to the ears of polluters who’ve fouled source waters and water utilities wary of treatment and infrastructure costs. But it’s just not true — and the EPA’s own scientists know it,” Mr. Cook said.

This year’s report pulled from water quality evaluations performed by nearly 50,000 water utilities nationwide.

The contamination from toxic substances including arsenic, lead and PFAs is widespread across tens of millions of households in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the EWG said.

However, the risks are likely higher in underserved communities, specifically those with higher Black or Latino populations, the EWG said. 

The Washington Times reached out to the EPA for comment. 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAs, are called forever chemicals because they do not break down in the environment and accumulate in blood and organs.

They include thousands of chemicals and are used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings for hundreds of consumer goods and industrial applications.

Studies have linked PFAs to heightened cancer risk, reduced vaccine effectiveness, unhealthy fetal development, weakened childhood immunity, endocrine disruption, increased cholesterol and weight gain in children and dieting adults.

“The latest research shows that many of the existing legal limits for tap water contaminants set by the EPA allow levels that can be harmful for children, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations,” said Uloma Uche, EWG’s environmental health science fellow. “EPA needs to review the latest science and set health-protective limits. The agency also needs funding to ensure that local utilities are able to meet those limits. Compounds, like PFAs, and other emerging contaminants have no legal limits in water. These chemicals urgently need to be regulated.” 

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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