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Forever Chemicals: Dangerous Perfluorinated Chemicals in Drinking Water

Forever Chemicals: Dangerous Perfluorinated Chemicals in Drinking Water

Clean drinking water is an essential component of our everyday lives. Whether we get our water from a municipal source or pump it from a private well, water is used for a variety of purposes in our homes, such as drinking, bathing, and cooking. These water sources may become contaminated from a variety of biological and chemical substances. Hidden dangers in the form of perfluorinated chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals”, pose a very real threat to our health and safety? What are these chemicals, and how can a reverse osmosis water filter system protect us? In this guide, we will explore forever chemicals and how they can be effectively removed from the water sources we take for granted.

Perfluorinated Chemicals: A Persistent Threat

Perfluorinated chemicals are part of a large group of industrial organic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoralkyl substances, or PFAS. Two such chemicals have been widely studied by water safety experts: perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFAS have been used in a wide range of industrial applications, including:

  • Carpet manufacturing
  • Clothing manufacturing
  • Upholstery manufacturing for the furniture industry
  • Packaging for foods and consumer goods
  • Non-stick coatings for cookware
  • Fire suppression in commercial applications like airports and manufacturing centers
  • Tire sealants
  • Floor waxes

PFAS found in food packaging

In many industrial processes that use PFAS, the chemicals serve as surfactants to reduce the surface tension of liquids. PFAS resists water, grease and oil contamination, and stains, making them suitable for protecting fabrics or providing a slippery non-stick coating on consumer goods. 

Why are these chemicals called “forever” chemicals? After releasing through industrial processes, the chemicals can persist in the environment. They also have the ability to bioaccumulate or build-up, in the cells of living organisms. Once these chemicals enter our bodies, they do not simply dissipate or break down – they can be with us forever. 

Where Does PFAS Contamination Come From?

PFAS has been used for decades in manufacturing. As a result, people can become exposed to these chemicals from a wide variety of sources. PFAS can contaminate the human body through:

  • Contact with packaging or fabrics that use PFAS in manufacturing processes.
  • Equipment that uses/used PFAS in food processing.
  • Eating foods or drinking beverages produced in PFAS-contaminated soil and water.
  • Exposure to the chemicals through contaminated groundwater sources. 

Industrial and agricultural runoff is a key contributor to PFAS contamination of water supplies. During weather events such as flooding, runoff may enter water sources, including municipal reservoirs and wells. Once contaminated, the chemicals persist. Other potential sources of contamination include landfills and industrial dumps, both of which can leach PFAS into the environment. 

Certain PFAS chemicals like PFOA and PFOS are no longer used in manufacturing processes in the United States or produced here, but other countries around the world continue to use them in industrial applications. These chemicals can be found in hundreds of different types of consumer goods produced abroad and imported into the U.S., including leather goods, clothing and shoes, textiles, plastics, and packaging. 

Even though the U.S. no longer manufactures PFAS, these chemicals can be readily found contaminating environments across the country. In fact, municipal water supplies in some of the largest cities are threatened by chemical contamination. And, because the chemicals do not break down over time, they persist as a health threat. The only way to keep these chemicals out of drinking water is through the use of a whole house water filter system and a reverse osmosis system. These filters prevent contaminated water from affecting you and the people you love – people who rely on clean, safe water for their daily needs. 

What Are the Health Risks of Forever Chemicals?

Environmental and public health officials have studied the effects of PFAS on humans for several decades. Bioaccumulation, or the process where chemicals are absorbed and stored in body tissues, is a prevalent concern regarding PFAS. Because of this cumulative effect, and the many potential contamination sources, humans may experience adverse health effects as levels of the chemicals increase through exposure or ingestion.

reproductive problems caused by PFAS

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted on the potential health effects of PFAS exposure. In research, the two primary compounds of PFOA and PFOS were examined to determine what effects they have on the human body. Some of the findings include alarming concerns like:

  • Reproductive harm
  • Problems with healthy development in fetuses and infants
  • Higher risk of certain cancers
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Damage to internal organs, particularly the kidneys and liver
  • Interference with healthy thyroid function

Scientists are still exploring the health risks associated with PFAS, particularly the risks with long-term exposure to these forever chemicals.

How Can I Make My Water Safe from PFAS?

Municipal water systems do a good job at disinfecting water supplies before that water is distributed to homes. Unfortunately, PFAS contamination can still cause health concerns, as municipal sources do not adequately filter out all contaminants. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set advisory levels for certain contaminants that are designed to minimize public health and environmental risks. The Lifetime Health Advisory for PFAS set by the EPA is 0.070 micrograms per liter in drinking water. 

Private wells are a different matter; without testing, homeowners who receive their water from wells may never know if contaminants are present until it is too late. PFAS may lurk in well water due to contamination of underground aquifers. 

A whole house water filter system can safely and effectively remove harmful contaminants from the water you use to bathe, drink, and cook. Some of the most advanced filters use multiple stages, with the first stages designed to remove sediments and silt and subsequent stages removing such contaminants as petroleum residues, heavy metals, and chemicals like PFOA and PFOS. The whole house water filter system improves the clarity, taste, and odor of drinking water. These water filtration systems are incredibly effective in removing dangerous contaminants.

Reverse osmosis systems are another way that harmful PFAS and contaminants are removed from the water. Reverse osmosis is a filtering method that mimics a natural cellular process. In reverse osmosis systems, untreated water from municipal sources or wells is pumped under pressure through a semipermeable membrane. This membrane has tiny pores that trap contaminants but allow water to pass through. Contaminants are flushed away through a drain system. Combination whole house water filter systems that incorporate reverse osmosis systems as one of the filtering steps can remove more than 99% of contaminants. 

healthy water for families

The health of you and your family is important. With the threat of forever chemicals like PFAS contaminating water supplies across the country, a whole house water filtration system with an included reverse osmosis system is the ideal solution for providing clean, fresh-tasting, and safe water for your daily uses. 

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