EWG - New Studies Trace PFC Pollution from Sources to the Next Generation

August 9, 2016

By David Andrews

Excerpt: Fluorine-based chemicals that can cause cancer, developmental toxicity and numerous other detrimental health effects have contaminated the drinking water of millions of Americans, and the blood of people and animals worldwide. But how did these chemicals get there – and what happens when they’re passed on to future generations?

A series of new, peer-reviewed studies connect the dots from the pollution sources, to drinking water supplies, to women’s blood, and bolster earlier findings that these chemicals can harm the immune systems of fetuses exposed in their mothers’ wombs. Perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, are used in Teflon, Scotchgard and hundreds of other products.

A study published today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters points to military bases, airports, industrial sites and wastewater treatment plants as the major sources of PFCs in drinking water. PFC pollution from industrial facilities has long been known, but the new study found that drinking water contamination, detected by nationwide tests mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, correlates strongly to military and civilian airports' use of firefighting foams.

“During fire-fighting practice drills, large volumes of these toxic chemicals wash into surface and ground waters and can end up in our drinking water,” said Arlene Blum, co-author of the study and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “Such toxic and persistent chemicals should only be used when essential, and never for training. There are non-fluorinated fire-fighting foams that should be considered for use instead.”

EWG collaborated on the study with researchers at Harvard University, the Green Science Policy Institute, Silent Spring Institute, University of California at Berkeley, University of Rhode Island and Colorado School of Mines, as well as the EPA and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Highly Fluorinated Chemicals (PFASs)