By Mayuk Saha
Perfluoroalkyl substances once felt like magic. Liquids and stains didn’t stick to them and so companies were able to use these chemicals to make Teflon and cleaning materials. Slowly their use spread to many household items like furniture, utensils and rugs. Their use even extends to the foam found in fire extinguishers.
However, it was soon discovered that when concentrated, these substances had the potential to be toxic if they were consumed. Studies proved that they entered the circulatory system of labourers in factories and the people residing in the surround areas. The chemicals were also found to be connected to certain kinds of cancer and congenital disabilities as NCBI reports.
Recently, drinking water was tested and analyzed and the results proved that agencies like the EPA and the Defence Department have hidden information about the true dangers that PFAs can cause. A lot of people are probably already suffering from exposure to toxic concentrations than have come to light. The government has downplayed the problem and intentionally so by manipulating test results to reveal only a handful of chemicals and to hide higher concentrations of chemicals that are poisonous. Tests that could detect other harmful substances were not conducted at all (source).
A presentation by one of EPA’s contractors shows that there the amount of PFAs in drinking water is twenty times more than what was published by the EPA. Using these figures, the Environmental Working Group has calculated that more than a hundred million Americans are risking exposure to these chemicals.
Earlier testing, though not as advanced, did point out that drinking water in over thirty states was contaminated. The Department of Defence believed that drinking water used in many military areas had suffered contamination including the groundwater systems in many regions. The new tests coming out only indicate that the contamination figures are much higher than we think they are.
The EPA has stated that it is confident in the recent tests it has conducted and that it will take the necessary measures to make sure that clean drinking water is available to everyone. The Défense Department has passed the blame the EPA saying that they are not regulating the use of PFAs as they should. They also claimed that they were developing new tests that could detect more PFA compounds. However, these promises only sound hollow to environment scientists.
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According to Erik Olson, a high ranking official in the Natural Resources Defence Council, many millions of Americans might be facing farm due to contaminated drinking water but governmental agencies are hiding the proof and are avoiding the truth rather than taking the necessary steps to clear up this mess. A report published by Politico a few months ago showed that the government had prevented the CDC from publishing a study that concluded that the safety levels were much lower than the numbers postulated by the EPA.
Now that more and more people are realizing that the government isn’t telling the public exactly how much danger they’re in, agencies will have to rethink the way they are dealing with these substances. According to David Sedlak who was one of the developers of the recent tests for detection of PFAs, the problem needs to be addressed and soon. These chemicals are non-bio degradable and if no measures are taken right now, it will be too late to do anything about them.
IMAGE CREDIT: Pongstorn Anurakchanachai