Home Emergency Management News Researchers Find Unsafe Drinking Water in 33 States

Researchers Find Unsafe Drinking Water in 33 States


Study: At least 6 million people impacted

At least 6 million people in 33 states are exposed to unsafe drinking water, which poses multiple, serious risks to the health of those residents, according to a joint study led by researchers from Harvard and other prominent U.S. institutions.

The study -- which involved researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other institutions (see full list) -- found drinking water contaminated with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) across 33 states in the U.S., which threatens the "developmental, immune, metabolic, and endocrine health of consumers."

According to the EPA, PFASs are wide-ranging chemicals that have various uses like fire resistance and water repellency. PFASs are currently found across the globe in the environment, wildlife, and in humans, and the EPA testing has found the chemicals to be toxic to both laboratory animals and wildlife.

PFASs have been linked with a series of serious health issues -- cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, and obesity. Because of the determined toxicity of the chemicals, the EPA created a PFOA Stewardship Program that had a goal of eliminating the chemicals, from both emissions and products, by 2015.

More than 36,000 samples analyzed

For the purposes of the study, researchers analyzed 36,149 drinking water samples collected by the EPA between January 2, 2013, and December 9, 2015. All 4,064 public water supplies that serve populations greater than 10,000 were included in the group of samples.

While researchers detected unsafe water samples in 33 different states, three-fourths of all detections occurred in just 13 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Links to industrial and military sites

Among the findings of the in-depth study was a possible connection between contaminated water supplies and proximity to industrial sites and military training areas.

According to the study, water supplies with high contamination levels had “more industrial sites, military fire training areas, AFFF-certified airports, and Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) than those with concentrations below detection.” AFFF-certified airports" refers to sites in which aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) that are widely used during firefighting training activities appeared.

Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.