Could dangerous chemicals in your drinking water be harming your health? amidst growing evidence that they can lead to health problems, increasing the risk of cancer, heart attacks, and even birth complications.

Edited by |Alexander Yaxina

 Health section -  CJ journalist

 March 19, 2023


  PFAS encompass around 10,000 different chemicals that are used in various consumer and industrial processes, mainly for their non-stick properties. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment, and so over time they leach into our water supply.

“Drinking water is not the only way that these contaminants can enter the human body,” says Vanessa Speight, professor of integrated water systems at the University of Sheffield. “There is a significant contamination in soil, food, and the environment. The contribution of drinking water to PFAS exposure varies from one person to another.”

What is their impact on our health?

Scientists have spent many years trying to understand the precise health risks of PFAS and the thresholds at which they occur. However, studies have now linked them to a broad range of health issues, ranging from reproductive problems to immune system suppression, increased cholesterol, kidney cancers and fertility problems, particularly in men.





“Reproductive health effects such as decreased fertility, developmental delays in children, and certain cancers are now believed to be linked to PFAS with enough certainty to proceed with regulation,” says Speight.

What can we do about it?

Speight suggests that the best first step for anyone concerned about the levels of PFAS in their water is to ask their water company for the latest sampling results for their particular location. If those measurements exceed 4ng/l, then she recommends considering purchasing a home treatment device, such as a tap-fitted filter or a filter pitcher.

However, you have to be careful with the brand you choose because not all water filters on the market are capable of removing these chemicals. Any activated carbon, ion exchange, or reverse osmosis water filter should be effective at doing the job.

“These are the treatment technologies that are best for removing PFAS and related compounds from drinking water,” she says. “Activated carbon is already used in drinking water treatment and would be helping to remove PFAS compounds from treated drinking water in your location.”

Should we be drinking bottled water?

Switching to bottled water might seem like a simple solution, but unfortunately, much of the available bottled water in supermarkets is processed from drinking water, and so may well contain exactly the same amounts of PFAS and related compounds.

“Non-treated bottle water sources, for example, spring water, are subject to the same types of contamination as mains drinking water,” says Speight. “Bottled water can also be contaminated with microplastics, which pose their own health risks.”

Another option if you are on the move, is to buy a filtered water bottle, again going for brands that have an activated carbon, ion exchange, or reverse osmosis filter.

As well as investing more in testing technologies, which can detect a larger variety of PFAS compounds in our water, Speight feels that we need a more thorough picture of the extent to which our water is contaminated and how this varies on a daily or weekly basis.

 

 

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