Unsafe levels of toxic chemicals found in drinking water for six million Americans

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Courtney C. Carignan PhD Research Fellow Department of Environmental Health Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Courtney Carignan

Courtney C. Carignan PhD
Research Fellow
Department of Environmental Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We used mapping technology coupled with drinking water data from EPA to identify military bases, airports, industrial sites, and wastewater treatment plants as major sources of PFOS and PFOA contamination in drinking water. These measurements suggest that at least six million people have drinking water that exceeds the recent EPA health advisorylevels for PFOA and PFOS.

These are chemicals that have been historically manufactured in the US and used widely in consumer products such as stain-proof carpeting, non-stick pans and aqueous firefighting foam. They have been replaced with new generation of shorter-chain fluorinated chemicals, which also do not break down in the environment and may be similarly toxic.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Exposure to PFOA and PFOS has been associated with kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol, obesity, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disruption, lower birth weight and size, liver malfunction, hormone changes and decreased immune function.

Future monitoring should expand to include smaller public and private water systems, and should also consider the short-chain chemicals. It would precautious to limit use of all highly fluorinated chemicals. While certain types of water treatment are effective at removing PFOS and PFOA, there is currently no technology to treat the short-chain substances in large drinking water treatment systems.

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Detection of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in U.S. Drinking Water Linked to Industrial Sites, Military Fire Training Areas, and Wastewater Treatment Plants
Xindi C. Hu, David Q. Andrews, Andrew B. Lindstrom, Thomas A. Bruton, Laurel A. Schaider, Philippe Grandjean, Rainer Lohmann, Courtney C. Carignan, Arlene Blum, Simona A. Balan, Christopher P. Higgins, and Elsie M. Sunderland
Environmental Science & Technology Letters
DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00260

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