A study from Harvard University discovered that a significant number of water supplies were contaminated with industrial chemicals that can cause cancer and other health problems. Those water supplies serve more than 6 million Americans. Even more concerning, another study says this contaminated water could be eliminating the effect of vaccines against diphtheria and tetanus on people.
The chemicals that are contaminating water supplies are known as poly fluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl (PFASs). These chemicals are associated with kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid problems, high cholesterol, hormone disruption, obesity, and other serious conditions. PFASs are found mostly in industrial sites, military training locations, civilian airports -because fire-fighting foam contains poly fluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl- and wastewater treatment plants.
PFASs are persistent man-made chemicals used since the 1950s, according to the lead author of the study, Xindi Hu. Once these chemicals are in the water, water treatment processes cannot remove the PFASs.
Mr. Hu is an engineer and public health researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the research, scientists assessed the levels of concentrations of 6 types of PFASs in more than 36 thousand water samples collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The samples used in the study led by Xindi Hu were gathered from the years 2013 to 2015.
Scientists also evaluated industrial sites that work with PFASs, military training facilities, wastewater treatment plants and civilian airports.
The study found that water supplies have high levels of these chemicals in 13 states nationwide. The results mean there’s about 75 percent of PFASs in the water. The states affected are New York, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Minnesota, Alabama, North Carolina, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, Reuters reports.
Also, 194 of 4,864 water supplies located in almost 36 states tested positive for PFASs. And 66 of those water supplies had at least one sample that violated the EPA’s regulations.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. However, the study is not complete as further analysis must be done. Researchers from Harvard admitted they did not have all the data needed to make a more accurate estimation of the levels of industrial chemicals in water supplies across the United States.
Researchers couldn’t determine how long people have lived in those areas drinking contaminated water or how much poisonous water have they drunk.
PFASs are not regulated by the federal government and the EPA treats them as ‘unregulated contaminants’
Knowing that PFASs are significantly harmful to the human health, is quite concerning the fact they are not regulated properly. The EPA have PFASs on its list of “unregulated contaminants” but there is not one law that explicitly bans these chemicals from American water supplies.
According to The Washington Post, the EPA is monitoring the chemicals on the list with the goal of restricting those that are a danger to the public. But officials have not succeeded to do so, partly because the rules to ban a chemical are complicated and contentious.
To impose a limit on a chemical, the EPA has to prove there is a significant chance to improve public health if said chemical is removed. But in reality, substances are often concentrated in a slight number of drinking water systems, and it is not enough to establish a standard regulation.
Despite the fact cancer-causing chemicals were found in the drinking water of over 16 million of Americans, the EPA could not regulate its use or cleansing process.
But the EPA can issue health advisories to states and communities, and that is what they have been doing. The EPA prompts states and local officials to take the unhealthy levels of a chemical in the water of a certain location into consideration. So, they can prevent the community to avoid its use once they know what contaminated water can do to the human body.
That is what happened when concerning levels of PFOS and PFOA were found in water supplies in previous ocassions. The EPA warned authorities and urged them to follow the Agency’s advice to protect the people.
America is not the only country exposed to severe risks from contaminated water and a second study proves it
Harvard presented another study that evaluated 600 teenagers from the Faroe Islands in Denmark. All participants had received vaccines against diphtheria and tetanus.
The study investigated how exposure to PFAS through water could affect vaccines’ effectiveness. Scientists found that adolescents have lower levels of antibodies against both diseases, despite receiving the vaccine. This study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and shows that people exposed to PFASs since a young age have reduced vaccine effects.
Scientist discovered there is a lower response to vaccinations in children between 5 and seven years old that were exposed to PFASs, Reuters reported.
Source: The Washington Post