Clean water advocacy groups said this week that they have found toxins linked to cancer and other health problems in more than 80% of tested watersheds around the United States, adding to the growing body of evidence about the pervasiveness of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS.
Results of the study, which was carried out by the nonprofit organization Waterkeeper Alliance, were released Tuesday. The group said PFAS toxins were detected in 95 of 114 watersheds tested, and some samples were found to contain levels of PFAS thousands of times higher than the levels considered safe for drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.)
Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida were among the states with the highest number of water samples containing PFAS.
The results “demonstrate that existing laws are inadequate for protecting us,” said Marc Yaggi, CEO of Waterkeeper Alliance.
The study is the first nationwide surface water quality survey to measure PFAS, and probably the most extensive survey of PFAS presence in surface waters that has ever been conducted in the US, according to the group.
One type of PFAS known as PFOA is considered a likely human carcinogen. Another type, PFOS, is known to accumulate in humans and cause liver damage and birth defects in lab animals. Both were detected in 69% of samples.
The report noted that PFOA was detected above the EPA Interim Health Advisory Level of 0.004 ppt in samples taken in waterways located in 26 states and D.C. The highest level detected was 847 ppt in a sample from Kreutz Creek, Pennsylvania. PFOS was detected above the EPA advisory levels in 28 states and D.C. The highest level detected was 1,364.7 ppt in a sample from Piscataway Creek, Maryland.