MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON – More than 610 drinking water sources in 43 states contain potentially unsafe levels of chemical compounds that have been linked to birth defects, cancers, infertility and reduced immune responses in children, according to a new database compiled by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University.
Using Pentagon data released last year and recently obtained public water utility reports, the researchers now estimate that more than 19 million people are exposed to water contaminated with perand polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS.
The new research shows the broad extent of the problem, that the harmful chemical compounds found concentrated in military water sources across the United States have also been reported hundreds more public drinking water systems than was previously known.
“This is a national crisis and it requires a national response,” said Bill Walker, vice president of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization focused on health and the environment.
While PFAS are found in everyday items such as Teflon and fast-food wrappers, the chemicals are concentrated in the fire-fighting foam that military bases, ships and commercial airports have used for decades.
Military bases and the communities surrounding them report some of the highest levels of contamination — much higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 recommendation of a maximum exposure level of 70 parts per trillion.