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In communities with high levels of PFAs contamination is treating drinking water enough?

Researchers say in communities with high level PFAs contamination local produce, including community gardens, could potentially become a source

A new study is asking whether treating drinking water is enough to protect people from exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs.

Researchers at four universities including Michigan State have begun a three-year study looking at how a PFAs contaminated water source could impact more than just drinking water.

PFAs, or perfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of chemicals that have been found across the state and are linked to health problems including cancer.

Researchers say when water is contaminated it can impact local wildlife and even things like locally grown produce. That means anything from eggs to honey could become a potential source of PFAs contamination.

Dr. Courtney Carignan is with Michigan State University. She said the study hopes to better understand what other sources for PFAs could exist in impacted communities and how the contamination could build up in humans.

“Really to get a better handle on what those contributions are from local sources, particularly for PFAs impacted communities, but I think we expect that information to be translatable to the rest of us.”

Carignan said the question the research hopes to answer is whether treating drinking water is enough to protect people.

“The main message of our project is to understand if we treat the drinking water in these PFAs impacted communities is that enough? Is that enough for these communities, is that enough for the rest of us?”

The research will also look at how quickly PFAs are able to migrate through soil and groundwater.

Carignan said researchers are still in the process of determining where the Michigan portion of the study will be conducted. Communities in North Carolina and Colorado have already been chosen.

The research has been awarded nearly two million dollars from the EPA.