A health advisory level is “an identifiable limit established to provide all Americans, even the most sensitive populations, a protective margin to a lifetime of exposure in drinking water.” In other words, health advisory levels are established based on exposure to substances for a lifetime and account for the most vulnerable individuals.
One part per trillion is the equivalent of one grain of sand in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
As mentioned above, PFOA and PFOS are prevalent in our food, our air, our water and in products we use regularly. According to the EPA, most people have been exposed to PFOA and PFOS. To reduce your exposure it is recommended to avoid using common household products that contain these substances.
According to the New York State Department of Health, the available information on the health effects associated with PFOA and PFOS, like many chemicals, comes from studies of high-level exposure in animals or humans. Less is known about the chances of health effects occurring from lower levels of exposure, such as those that might occur in drinking water. As a result, finding lower levels of chemicals in drinking water prompts water suppliers and regulators to take precautions that include notifying consumers and steps to reduce exposure.
PFOA and PFOS have caused a wide range of health effects when studied in animals that were exposed to high levels. Additional studies of high-level exposures to PFOA and PFOS provide evidence that some of the health effects seen in animals may also occur in humans. The most consistent findings in animals were adverse effects on the liver and immune system and impaired fetal growth and development. The United States Environmental Protection Agency found that there is suggestive evidence that PFOA and PFOS cause cancer based on studies of animals exposed to high levels of these chemicals over their entire lifetimes.
PFOA and PFOS are pervasive and come from a wide range of sources. They can be found in drinking water supplies as a result of industrial releases or use of firefighting foam, but are also used in a wide range of products, from food packaging to stain-resistant furniture to cosmetics. Our exposure comes from multiple sources and routes.
These chemicals can enter the environment directly from landfills where products such as carpets and textiles break down and leach into the air, soil and water. PFOA and PFOS have also been found in a number of plants and animals. With their resiliency and mobility—they are not known to break down in the environment and they move through soil to drinking water.
Veolia is continuing to investigate the sources of PFOA and PFOS in its water systems.
While bottled water is often thought of as a safe alternative when tap water is found to contain contaminants like arsenic and lead, it is often not tested for PFOA or PFOS. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) now requires its member companies to test for these substances, but the IBWA doesn’t represent all bottled-water manufacturers.
A new study by scientists at Duke University and North Carolina State University finds that – while using any filter is better than using none – many household filters are only partially effective at removing these substances from drinking water.
Customers who may have further concerns about unregulated contaminants may choose to use a NSF-certified filter for drinking water in their homes.
More information is available here.
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