Forever chemicals are found in 45% of the nation’s tap water. So how can we use items like shower head water filters and tap filters to remove them?
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No one likes the idea of showering or drinking chemicals. Yet, new research makes it clear that that is what most of us are exposed to. In July 2023, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) published a study showing that “45% of the nation’s tap water has one or more types of polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).” In August 2022, concerns were raised about microplastics present in both tap and bottled water. On the lower end of concerns, are chemicals like chlorine which is a disinfectant and prevents water contamination from bacteria and parasites, but also bonds to the proteins in your skin and hair leaving skin itchy and dry and hair brittle. All of this is to say that we might need to adopt at-home solutions to improve water quality.
To learn more about the risks of forever chemicals and other substances in our water we reached out to two experts in the water conservation industry. Riggs Eckelberry, the founder/CEO of OriginClear, and Kyle Postmus, the Global Senior Manager of the Drinking Water Treatment Units (DWTU) Program share their insight on how we can have cleaner water.
Do these chemicals cause cancer or other adverse effects, or are the studies inconclusive?
RE: According to the EPA, research is ongoing but suggests that PFAS exposure may lead to adverse health effects, such as decreased fertility, developmental delays in children, increased risk of certain cancers, and other health complications. In my opinion, the potential risk simply isn’t worth it.
KP: Yes, PFAS chemicals bioaccumulate in our bodies and cause several health issues, including cancer, immune system reduction, thyroid issues, and more.
What are the risks to the average American?
RE: PFAS exposure carries the potential for increased risk for a number of health conditions. We’re finding PFAS in our drinking water and in food exposed to contaminated water such as fish, food packaging, and more. It can really come at us from all sides.
KP: The risk will vary based on where you are located in the US. Readers can view an interactive map from the EWG to view where the PFAS contamination areas are and decide if they want to invest in a water filter to help reduce these contaminants.
How can we advocate for better drinking water?
RE: We can put pressure on the cities to increase funding and standards where they’re failing. At the end of the day, though, only 1/10th of freshwater is used by people like you and me. The rest is used by industry and agriculture, which is putting tremendous strain on central water infrastructure.
KP: Both citizens and government officials are concerned about PFAS chemicals in our drinking water. I recommend contacting local water utilities to learn how to voice concerns. There is also an EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791) that could be a good starting point.
How can we protect ourselves from forever chemicals?
RE: It starts with doing your due diligence. What products contain PFAS and what are my alternatives? What food, like fish, can contain PFAS and what sources can I trust? What water filtration is best for me? And so forth.
Do water filtration systems work?
RE: Water filtration systems are a great investment for your health, and some can be effective in removing PFAS, such as reverse osmosis and activated carbon filters. Though my company OriginClear doesn’t operate at the residential level, my personal setup consists of a whole home ultrafiltration system, filtering down to .02 micron, which takes care of most pollutants (example here), an under sink R/O system with alkaline remineralization filter.
KP: For water filter systems working against PFAS, look for a water filter certified for a PFAS reduction claim to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 – Drinking Water Treatment Units – Health Effects or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 – Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment System. They are the first internationally recognized standards for validating point-of-use and point-of-entry water treatment devices for their effectiveness in reducing PFAS contamination in drinking water.