I just finished watching the movie Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo (highly recommended), so this article from ENSIA was a must read.
“A group of manmade substances that can cause serious health problems in humans and animals is increasingly threatening U.S. drinking water systems, experts say. Scientists are working hard to better understand per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances — or PFAS — and develop technologies to minimize harm from these extraordinarily durable pollutants.
“PFAS is the umbrella term for a variety of substances, including PFOA, PFOS and GenX. Exposure to high levels of PFAS may decrease vaccine response in children and cause some forms of cancer and birth defects. PFAS also affect the kidneys, liver and immune system, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Products such as firefighting foam, water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products, waxes, polishes and some food packaging contain the chemicals. Dubbed “forever chemicals” for their durability, these substances went unrecognized as pollutants for decades. But now that society is aware that they have contaminated drinking water, the race is on to develop technologies that can eliminate them.
“I think we’ll see more technologies evolving, but it’s going to be a tough one to crack,” says Ginny Yingling, senior hydrogeologist in the Environmental Health Division of the Minnesota Department of Health. “It took nearly a decade or more for people to figure out how to get after the chlorinated solvents. We thought they were impossible, [but they’re] nothing compared to these chemicals.”
“Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is involved in several research projects aimed at helping to clean up PFAS-contaminated sites. These include developing ways to measure PFAS in soil, sediments and groundwater; evaluating the effectiveness of methods for removing PFAS from drinking water; and evaluating approaches to destroying PFAS.
“The EPA also has formed partnerships with other agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), states and cities. In addition, the agency has partnered with public works facilities, such as wastewater treatment plants and waste processing facilities, across the country. It has also funded research in the private sector.
“For fiscal year 2020, the EPA set aside US$35 million for PFAS research. The DoD, which is dealing with contaminated sites at military installations across the country, budgeted US$40 million for PFAS research.”
Retrieved December 26, 2020 from PFAS chemicals are turning up in tap water across the country. How do we get them out? | Ensia