How Long Will Chemicals Be in our Drinking Water? Apparently Forever.


PFAS are among other toxins being found nationwide in our tap water, contaminating countless waterways. Currently, Cincinnati is among many other cities who tested positive in a study on PFA pollution, containing 11.2 parts per trillion PFAS within. Studies are still being done on the effects of PFAS pollution.

   For those keeping up with Cincinnati’s local news, you may have been surprised to see stories headlining “forever chemicals” in our drinking water. These chemicals are described as “forever” because of their inability to break down over time, causing them to clog up bloodstreams and organs when ingested. Also classified as perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS), they are known to increase the risk for cancer, kidney and liver diseases, and various other health concerns. 


   In January 2020,  the Environmental Working Group released results from a nationwide study done testing PFAS contamination in drinking water. Out of the 44 areas tested for PFAS, only 41 showed levels under the risk level for human consumption, and out of the 41 positive locations, only nine had previously reported any sort of PFAS contamination.


   9 out of 41. It sounds alarming, doesn’t it? Well, it should. 


   The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently holds a minimum of 70 parts per trillion or ppt PFAS within drinking water as the bar when local officials should send out a public health advisory. At 700 ppt PFAS, agencies should take immediate action. However, this health advisory announcement is not required, and some states are left creating their own legal limits to PFA and PFOA contamination, including New Jersey, with a proposed limit of 13 ppt PFAS. 


   Ohio is not one of these states, and in Cincinnati, this most recent study reported an 11.2 ppt rate for toxic PFAS found in our tap water. Is that worrying? 


   Superintendent of Water Quality at the Greater Cincinnati Water Works, Jeff Swertfeger, says we might need to calm down. “There’s no reason to panic,” he says. The level of PFAS contamination in our water has been and is being carefully monitored by the Cincinnati Waterworks, and the company has been working with Dupont, a business that uses PFAS to manufacture Teflon—a possible culprit— to reduce chemical pollution. 


   “Even though these chemicals are nowhere near a health advisory level, we would still rather for them not to be there,” Swertfeger says. The Waterworks has been working to reduce pollutants through the use of carbon water filtration systems and prevention mechanisms. 


   Generally, the consensus is that we will always have to deal with these pollutants—as Business Enquirer notes, there have already been studies done finding PFAS chemicals within 99 percent of Americans. 


   So what should we do? Should we be worried about toxic contamination? Should we be stocking up on water filters? 


   In all honesty, the issue of PFAS and similar toxin contaminations is not a new issue, and many scientists point to the EPA to pursue more research into whether or not their 700 ppt PFAS rule is much more damaging than expected. 


   Currently, solutions such as reverse-osmosis are being brought to the table as plausible methods for removing contaminants from water, and scientists are advocating for more sustainable solutions and research into the area. 


   Lawmakers are in the spotlight here, as they have generally failed to set great examples for our water clean up. 


   So even though this may not seem like a big deal yet, not a major life-threatening development, we should still be aware and on the lookout for pollution in our water because it may not be as pristine as we think it is.