Karen Feidscher of Harvard Chan School Communications writes Tuesday the study, done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)., looked at widely used industrial chemicals that have been linked with cancer and other health problems.
“For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities, such as PFASs, were allowed to be used and released to the environment, and we now have to face the severe consequences,” said lead author Xindi Hu, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School, Environmental Science and Engineering at SEAS, and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “In addition, the actual number of people exposed may be even higher than our study found, because government data for levels of these compounds in drinking water is lacking for almost a third of the U.S. population – about 100 million people.”
The study found that polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) – exceed federally recommended safety levels in public drinking-water supplies for 6 million people in the United States.
The study found that PFASs were detected in water supplies in 33 states across the United States. Drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75 percent of the detections: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
“These compounds are potent immunotoxicants in children and recent work suggests drinking-water safety levels should be much lower than the provisional guidelines established by EPA,” said Elsie Sunderland, senior author of the study and associate professor at both the Harvard Chan School and SEAS.