Some of you have may have heard some recent concerns voiced by environmental groups and others about the dangerous levels of PFAS in the country’s water supply. PFAS is a family of highly toxic, fluorinated chemicals that have been found in more than 2,800 communities across the United States, including in Houston, according to a recent 2021 report by the Environmental Working Group.
PFAS are known as the “forever chemicals” because they build up in our bodies and never break down. The chemical family has been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system irregularities, and other diseases. According to the reports, some high concentrations have been found in and around the San Jacinto River basin and have made their way into Houston’s water supply. According to Texas Observer, nearly half a million Texans live within three miles of sites where groundwater has been deemed “extremely” contaminated with PFAS.
Where Does PFAS Come From?
PFAS has been used mainly in industrial settings since the 1940s, and the family includes more than 5,000 chemicals. But the two most common, PFOA and PFOS, are commonly used to make nonstick pans, carpets, and firefighting foam. According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 41,000 industrial sites around the country are known or suspected of discharging PFAS into the air and water, including:
- More than 4,700 using PFAS for electroplating and polishing
- More than 3,000 petroleum stations and terminals
- More than 2,300 chemical manufacturers
- More than 2,200 metal product manufacturers
- More than 2,100 commercial printing facilities
- More than 1,800 plastics and resin manufacturing sites
- More than 1,500 paint and coating manufacturers
- More than 1,200 semiconductor manufacturers
- More than 1,000 electric component manufacturers
If you’re wondering, there are no EPA standards limiting PFAS discharges by such companies into the air and water. However, the EPA introduced a new strategic roadmap on PFAS in October 2021 that set new deadlines for additional regulations on PFAS, and Congress is currently discussing legislation that would place limits on such chemicals in municipal water supplies. The new infrastructure law passed by Congress also includes funds to address PFAS in communities.
How Dangerous Are PFAS?
Currently, research continues on what are believed to be the harmful effects of PFAS on the human body, though many scientists say they still don’t know all the dangers – especially given the fact that the chemical doesn’t break down in any environment. Studies have linked the presence of PFAS to low infant birth weights, inhibiting vaccine responses in children, an increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, and potential liver damage. The family of chemicals is also correlated with a greater likelihood of:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Infectious diseases such as cold, flu, coughs, bronchitis, etc.
- Neurodevelopmental disorders in children
- Respiratory diseases
- Strokes and blood clotting
- Thyroid disease
- Birth defects
What PFAS Levels Are Considered Dangerous?
There is no common standard for what is considered safe drinking water. The U.S. EPA has recommended a health advisory if water tests at 70 parts per trillion. The Environmental Working Group suggests that anything over 1 part per trillion could potentially be toxic. Meanwhile, other states such as Michigan have set a limit of 8 parts per trillion as a threshold for concern about drinking water on one particular member of the PFAS family, a commonly detected chemical called PFOA.
How About the Houston Area?
As mentioned above, elevated concentrations have been found in the San Jacinto River basin as well, as around various Texas military bases, which have been known to use flame-retardant PFAS chemicals on fires. Many other portions of the city remain PFAS-free. While there are no specific plans outlined for Houston, the EPA in April unveiled its first national testing strategy for the family of chemicals. As more analysis occurs and more studies of PFAS’ true effects on the human body are found, it’s likely to only increase efforts toward industry regulations.
What’s the Solution to PFAS in Houston Area?
For many municipal water companies, cleaning up PFAS in the community water supply is expensive and only a few have started such an effort in earnest. However, home water filtration systems and point-of-use systems such as the ones we offer at Houston Water Solutions can significantly reduce and essentially eliminate PFAS from your home water supply. You can get started by requesting a free water quality analysis from us. We’ll analyze your water for this chemical family and other known contaminants in Houston’s water supply. Then, we’ll recommend the filtration system so you can be confident in your drinking water. Learn more by visiting us at http://www.houstonwatersolutions.net or give us a call to get your free water quality analysis today.