Toxic forever chemicals in per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are troubling households and energy industry workers alike, as their pervasiveness plagues wastewater treatment facilities and environmentalists. PFAS sneaks into the water and, subsequently, into products without knowledge, so how can consumers stay vigilant and healthy despite these hazardous particulates? The most effective ways to steer clear of PFAS in the water supply range from the obvious to lesser-known sources.
1. Filter Your Water
Despite the controversy of purchasing single-use plastic water bottles, it’s still a mainstay in countless homes. It’s one of the top transmitters of PFAS in the water supply. The chemical composition of plastic bottles is rife with PFAS, and studies prove it’s present in around 40% of tested bottles.
Water bottles can claim they’re purified. However, water treatment methods to remove PFAS are inadequate and noncomprehensive, making this qualifier nearly meaningless when referring to PFAS. It may remove other contaminants, but installing a PFAS-focused tap water filter that uses activated charcoal or reverse osmosis might be better.
2. Talk to Your Local Water Provider
Everyone can defer to a specialist’s opinion regardless of whether they themselves are in the water industry. Discuss PFAS in the water supply with local water providers. They know the most recent EPA regulations on what’s considered safe concentrations of PFAS and can use the most updated testing methods to review local water quality. Consulting with them can reveal other best practices to reduce household or workplace exposure.
Self-administered testing options are available, but buyers should seek reputable brands developed by the EPA.
Every state is different regarding PFAS levels — it isn’t federally standardized. Therefore, citizens across the country will have to refer to local guidelines. Some states have as few as zero significant contaminants, and others have as many as 16 severely hazardous chemicals like radium and arsenic. Despite these typically adhering to the most recent research, professionals still aren’t sure if any levels of PFAS in drinking water are OK for human consumption. It’s still up for debate.
3. Reconsider Fish
PFAS lingers in the air, soil, and water. The unfortunate truth is its inability to break down makes it capable of floating anywhere and everywhere, leaching into every product using water from contaminated waterways. Logically, this should encourage grocery shoppers wanting to reduce PFAS exposure from purchasing fish. They are the most likely food products to have high concentrations of PFAS through unwilling absorption and trophic transfer.
Areas should have resources to see which waterways are most affected by PFAS. Regardless, all livestock raised for food production and farms using water from rivers impacted by PFAS have an equally high risk for contamination.
4. Seek Industrial Change
PFAS isn’t exclusively in water — it’s prevalent in food containers, non-stick cookware, and toilet paper, which contaminate wastewater. Regulatory bodies don’t know how to prioritize issues unless constituents prove there is enough relevant problem to cause concern. The more voices speak up concerning PFAS, the less likely it will be that companies will include it in product blueprints. When their reputations could be on the line, many organizations would take the ingredients out to save their bottom line.
Here are some ways to make voices heard about changing PFAS regulations:
- Writing letters and making calls to representatives about presently debated PFAS regulation
- Talking to representatives about new research and PFAS findings that could spark governmental discourse
- Meeting with local businesses to discuss alternative solutions to their PFAS-laden products
- Challenging misinformation surrounding the environmental and health impact of PFAS
Seeking corporate change like this is necessary for reducing exposure to PFAS in waterways because of pollution from external sources. Landfills are stacked to the brim with water-polluting materials, and many of those products have forever chemicals snuck into them.
5. Spread Awareness
Making factual information more accessible is one of the best forms of advocacy. Though seeking industrial change spreads awareness, it does not focus on internal knowledge about PFAS or connecting with someone’s immediate social circle. For example, spreading awareness could mean a person reads labels to discover PFAS in products they have never considered before or making lifestyle choices like avoiding certain cosmetics. Many contain PFAS, which can have harmful side effects on the skin.
Protecting against PFAS in water also means never becoming complacent. Awareness of the issue must be resilient to the toxic, fatalistic conversation surrounding PFAS. Some advocates question if it’s worth fighting for when PFAS is already present in almost every human and probably leaking into every environment. Does this mean systemic change should stop?
6. Innovate Technology
Working from within is one of the most intense ways to monitor PFAS in the water supply, but passionate individuals must enter the industry. Changing corporate mindsets to research and develop alternatives to PFAS in their products is critical. It’s essential to expedite these efforts as companies attempt to find new uses for wastewater and reduce water scarcity by improving wastewater treatment methods. These efforts would carry more gravity if fewer obstacles existed, like newly made PFAS products on shelves.
Companies have used PFAS for over a century because of its inexpensive nature and durability. Nothing has quite matched it, but it’s time for innovators to forge new pathways. What resources exist that are cheap to produce and keep the promises of PFAS without endangering humans, wildlife, and the planet?
Watching Waterways for PFAS
Staying safe from PFAS in the water supply can take numerous forms — personal to industrial and political to personal. Choosing what to eat, what entities to support, and how to navigate a career can all inspire a motivation to remove PFAS from products and the environment. Its prevalence shouldn’t stop action, as countries and individuals begin to take firm stances against forever chemicals.