A new study shows that over 6 million Americans are drinking water laden with unsafe levels of deadly chemicals which are known to cause cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Researchers from Harvard University have found that the public drinking water in many states have levels of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, that are above what the federal government recommends, according to CBS.
PFASs are usually found in household cleaners, wire insulation, paint and food packaging. The author of the study, Xindi Hu, looked at more than 36,000 drinking water samples from across the nation. She found that 66 of the public water supplies, which provides water to over 6 million Americans, had at least one sample that was above the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended level.
The Daily Mail notes that 6 million could actually be a conservative estimate, as the governmental data that the researchers used omits around a third of the country. Almost 100 million people could have been left out of the study.
The states that are most at-risk for drinking toxic water are 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 fellow researcher Elsie Sunderland in a statement, according to CBS. Immunotoxicants are compounds that block the body's ability to fight off infection and disease.
Unfortunately, there aren't any measures in place to regulate the amount of PFASs in drinking water. The EPA notes that PFASs "are toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests. However, they don't seem to provide a solution beyond "health advisories," telling those who oversee drinking water systems to simply "take appropriate actions to protect their residents" if high levels of PFASs are found.
The recommended PFAS limit in drinking water is 70 parts per trillion, or ng/L. In places like Newark, Delaware, levels reached 1,800 ng/L, the Daily Mail reports.
"I think there is enough evidence to be concerned about these compounds in drinking water," said Hu to CBS. "Drinking water affects so many people and we need to be careful about what chemicals we use and how we dispose of them in the environment."