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Health, Science and Environment

Cancer causing chemicals in the drinking water of at least 15 million Americans, report finds

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Kamil Kaczor
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More than 15 million Americans may be drinking water contaminated with chemicals linked to cancer, according to a new report.

Perfluorinated compounds - or PFC’s - have already been found in Oscoda and Grayling but the report, created through a partnership between the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University, indicates contamination may be far more widespread.

The chemicals were used on roughly 600 military and air bases across the country as flame retardants, as well as at industrial sites.

Bill Walker is with the Environmental Working Group. He said there are likely more than 15 million people with contaminated drinking water.

“There’s reason to believe that doesn’t represent nearly the true number of people that are affected because first of all about one third of the people in the united states either get water from private wells or systems that are too small to be covered by the EPA testing program.”

Walker said while current and former military sites have been actively testing for contamination, the EPA has been silent about which industrial sites may have used PFC’s.

“The EPA is to a large extent leaving states and localities on their own to decide whether or not they should go looking for these chemicals.”

David Andrews is a scientist with EWG. He said once companies were forced to stop using PFCs, they switched to other, chemically similar, compounds. He said those compounds are likely just as dangerous as PFC’s.

Andrews said the EPA sets the health advisory limit for the chemicals at 70 parts per trillion.

“We’ve actually written a short piece on this last year on the emerging science indicating a safe level would be one part per trillion or lower.”

Both men say all Americans should invest in a water filter.

To view sites with confirmed contamination visit: http://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2017_pfa/index.php