15 Million Americans may be Drinking Water Contaminated with PFCs

15 Million Americans may be Drinking Water Contaminated with PFCs

More than 15 million Americans across 27 states may have drinking water contaminated with perfluorochemicals (PFCs) that are used to make non-stick cookware and other products, according to a report published in June 2017. [1]

PFCs have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, and weakened immune systems. What’s more, prenatal exposure to the chemicals has been linked to low birthweight and future obesity. Even small amounts in drinking water are considered a public health threat.

Research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University in Boston reveals that drinking water has been polluted with perfluorochemicals from more than 4 dozen industrial and military sources from Maine to California. [2]

In a press release, managing editor of the EWG Bill Walker said:

“It’s remarkable that the richest country on earth can’t guarantee its citizens that their drinking water is completely safe and has no long-term health implications.” [1]

Although the CDC has found perfluorocarbons in the bodies of virtually all Americans and knows that mothers can pass the chemicals to their babies through the umbilical cord, there are currently no federal health regulations for the chemicals in drinking water. [2]

The last time a drinking water contaminant was added to the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act was 25 years ago. [1]

Two types of PFCs, called PFOA and PFOS, have waterproof and non-stick properties, making them used in the production of cookware, outdoor clothing, food packaging, and firefighting foam. DuPont formerly used the chemicals to make its Teflon non-stick cookware, and PFCs were formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard.

Perfluorochemicals were phased out in the U.S. after it was revealed that both companies spent decades covering up the health risks of the substances. [2]

U.S. chemical manufacturers replaced PFOA and PFOS with a different type of PFC that is molecularly different. However, it was not adequately tested for safety before going on the market. The few studies that do exist indicate they’re not much safer than older PFCs.

EWG and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeaster collaborated to create an interactive map that, EWG says, “combines federal drinking water data and information on all publicly documented cases of PFAS pollution from manufacturing plants, military air bases, civilian airports and fire training sites.”


[1] Time

[2] Environmental Working Group