What can PFAS do to your body?
Medical research on PFAS in human subjects dates back to at least 1955 when a study showed that PFAS bind to proteins in human blood.
Research into PFAS is inconclusive but suggests several possible health risks associated with long-term exposure to PFAS. According to the CDC, high levels of PFAS may lead to:
- Increased cholesterol
- Decreased vaccine response in children
- Changes in liver enzymes
- Increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women
- Decreases in infant birth weights
- Increased risk of testicular and kidney cancer
The EPA has also released a health advisory of no more than 70 parts per trillion for PFAS in drinking water. They based this decision on laboratory studies on animals. Such studies indicated that even minute amounts of PFAS would trigger a toxicity response in rat livers.
How much is water contamination due to PFAS?
Quite a lot. For one thing, scientists have found PFAS in the bloodstream of about 98% of all Americans. It got in there from either contaminated water, plastic packaging, or food made using equipment containing PFAS.
As for the overall environmental impact, this infographic shows just how widespread PFAS contamination is. Hotspots are located all over the United States, with denser clusters on each coast. Note that New Jersey has data points across the entire state. Having a long history of industrial production of PFAS and other chemicals, New Jersey suffers from a great deal of groundwater contamination.
With less extensive industrial production, the country’s middle shows much less water contamination from PFAS, except for Colorado.
Regulations of PFAS to prevent water contamination
On a national level, the EPA has not placed enforceable limits on the levels of PFAS in drinking water. However, they have released an unenforceable health advisory of no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS in drinking water.
New Jersey currently has the strictest standards on water pollution in the country as New Jersey also has a long history of water contamination from industrial factories. In 2018, New Jersey became the first state in the US to set a maximum standard of 13 parts per trillion in drinking water.
Currently, New Jersey mandates a maximum of 10 parts per trillion of PFAS in drinking water. That being said, PFAS themselves do not care about the law, and it is still possible to find wells that register well over the EPA maximum of 70 parts per trillion in New Jersey.