Toxic PFAS have likely contaminated roughly 57,412 locations across the U.S., according to a new study.
Those locations include certain industrial facilities, waste processing facilities, and places where firefighting foam containing PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been used, such as airports and military bases.
The study, published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, found likely PFAS contamination sites in all 50 states. It is the first study to use existing scientific data on PFAS contamination to create a model that can predict locations where contamination is likely.
“PFAS contamination at these sites is not just possible, but probable,” Alissa Cordner, senior author on the paper and co-director of the PFAS Project Lab, told EHN. “Testing for PFAS is extremely expensive and requires a lot of time and technical capacity… One of our big goals is to help decision makers prioritize testing and remediation at these locations based on this high likelihood of contamination.”
PFAS don’t break down naturally, so they linger in the environment and human bodies. Exposure is linked to health problems including kidney and testicular cancer, liver and thyroid problems, reproductive problems, lowered vaccine efficacy in children and increased risk of birth defects, among others.
The chemicals have been found in drinking water systems throughout the U.S., in the bodies of humans and animals around the globe, in plants and crops, and even in rainwater at levels too high for safe consumption.
Research on the chemicals has increased in recent years, but due to a lack of testing requirements at the federal level, we lack critical data about the scale, scope, and severity of PFAS releases and contamination in the U.S.
Environmental Health News, 13-10-22