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Drinking Water Map Reveals PFAS Contamination in Every US State

A map shows that water containing PFAS — also known as “forever chemicals” — is present in American communities in every state across the country.

A map created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) charts all the locations in which dangerous levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been found in public drinking water systems across the United States — revealing just how widespread the issue is.

PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” are man-made chemicals present in everything from cosmetics to cookware items to clothing, and they don’t easily break down in the body or the environment. New research continues to emerge about all the ways in which PFAS harm human health and are linked to health hazards, including causing cancer, fertility issues, and developmental delays in children.

The interactive map, most recently updated on May 21, 2024, shows PFAS contamination of drinking water in 6,189 locations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories.

The states with the most contamination include South Carolina, North Carolina, Ohio, Massachusetts, Alabama, central Colorado, New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and Minnesota.

The EWG recently updated the map based on new national data released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which revealed that at least 89.3 million people in communities throughout the U.S. are exposed to drinking water that has tested positive for PFAS.

In reality, according to the EWG, the actual scale of PFAS contamination is likely much greater, as these results are only based on the latest testing from roughly one-third of water systems that serve 90% of the population. In 2020, EPA scientists published a study estimating that more than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their drinking water at a concentration of 1 part per trillion or higher.

The new data come just a month after the EPA introduced new strict legal limits on six different PFAS in water, including a 4 parts per trillion limit on PFOA and PFOS — two PFAS that have been produced in the largest amounts within the U.S.

The agency has required that all public water systems serving more than 3,000 people test for 29 individual PFAS between now and 2026, and they’ll have two additional years to install filtration systems if their water samples show PFAS levels above the enforceable limit.

Experts have said the move will save lives and prevent countless illnesses, as recent research has shown that these chemicals are more harmful to humans than previously thought and at much lower levels.

The EPA estimates that the new limits will result in 1,232 fewer birth-weight-related infant deaths, 1,928 fewer kidney cancer deaths, 1,844 fewer bladder cancer deaths, and 3,584 fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease.

“We call on water utilities to inform their customers immediately if PFAS have been detected, and to begin water treatment as quickly as possible to protect their customers from these toxic forever chemicals,” said John Reeder, vice president of federal affairs at the EWG, in a news release. “The EPA data reaffirm the Biden administration’s decision to issue bold new drinking water standards for PFAS.”

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