We’ve posted in the past about the dangerous PFAS (Pea’-fas) lining that coats most of the molded fiber containers used for takeout food. A few jurisdictions have outlawed them, but we’ve yet to encounter any PFAS police.
New research would seem to show that the horse has already left the barn on protecting the public from PFAS toxicity. According to a peer-reviewed study by scientists at the Environmental Working Group, they estimate that more than 200 million Americans could have the toxic fluorinated chemicals in their drinking water at a concentration of 1 part per trillion (ppt) or higher. Independent scientific studies have recommended a safe level for PFAS in drinking water of 1 ppt ‒ a standard endorsed by EWG. So, a vast majority of Americans are already at the maximum edge of their lifetime limit.
Worst Cities for PFAS Contamination
The study analyzed drinking water testing results from the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey, as well as state testing by Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Some of the highest PFAS levels detected were in samples EWG independently tested from areas including Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans and the northern New Jersey suburbs of New York City.
There is no national requirement for ongoing testing and no national drinking water standard for any PFAS. The EPA issued an inadequate lifetime health advisory level of 70 ppt for the two most notorious fluorinated chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.
Lax Government Standards
But efforts to set an enforceable standard could take many years, and many states have either set or proposed lower limits for PFOA and PFOS, including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.
“The first step in fighting any contamination crisis is to turn off the tap,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs. “The second step is to set a drinking water standard, and the third is to clean up legacy pollution. The PFAS Action Act passed by the House would address all three steps by setting deadlines for limiting industrial PFAS releases, but Mitch McConnell’s senate has refused to act to protect our communities from ‘forever chemicals.'”
Sort of Forever or Forever Forever?
PFAS are called forever chemicals because they never break down in the environment. They are found in almost everything from drinking water to food, food packaging and personal care products. They are found in the blood of virtually everyone on Earth, including ‒ incredibly ‒ newborn babies.
Very low doses of PFAS chemicals in drinking water have been linked to suppression of the immune system and are associated with an elevated risk of cancer and reproductive and developmental harms, among other serious health concerns.
To truly grasp the toxic nature of PFAS, consider the safety recommendation for exposure – just 1 part per trillion. Here’s how to visualize that tiny amount: one cubic foot of sand has one about billion grains in it. So, if you can imagine a box 10 feet high by ten feet wide by 10 feet deep, it would contain one trillion grains of sand. Just one of those grains would be 1ppt – the maximum exposure you should risk.
There is absolutely no reason we should continue to use takeout materials made with PFAS chemicals when a modest convenience is weighed against such grave health risks.