PFAS contamination in the United States
By Eldon C. Muehling
A recent update (March 2019) published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University includes a map of the United States that documents publicly the currently known extent of a large family of contaminants called PFAs. The extent of this family of contaminants in the U.S. is absolutely shocking!
How wide spread it this problem?
Almost every state is affected to some extent. More specifically, nineteen million people in 43 states and 610 locations were shown to be affected by PFAs. Three areas in particular that had the most affected locations, are the states of Michigan, California, and most of the Northeastern US states.
Their findings confirm that PFAs pollute the blood of virtually every American. Sadly, this includes newborn babies. Even more frightening, as shown by the March update, the use and concentration of these highly toxic fluorinated compounds are continuing to grow at an alarming rate.
WOW! What are PFAs anyway?
PFAs are a very large family of thousands of chemicals, all including atoms of the element Fluorine. (You can read more here.) They are used in a wide array of consumer and industrial applications. They include waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, firefighting foam, grease resistant food packaging and many others, all intended to make our lives easier and safer. But are they safer? Not really.
Why the concern?
Studies link even very low levels of PFAs with cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity. Many other diseases and health issues are suspected.
What is the solution to this big health problem?
Must we give up the benefits that PFAs afford us? Probably not, but safer alternatives must be found. Money will need to be spent researching this problem. In the meantime, individuals should take control of their own drinking water supply. We, of course, recommend doing this by distilling your water at home.
But what about food, especially the processed food that might contain PFAs or coated with them? If you know where your food was produced, check the EWG map to see the likelihood of contamination. (Some producers are already aware of the issue.)
Also, be cautious about the packaging used. Grease-resistant packaging (like what is used for most fast food) and food that is prepared in the packaging are big culprits to avoid.
There are no easy answers but all of these issues will need to be addressed, and sooner rather than later.