8.9 million Floridians have ‘forever chemicals’ in their drinking water, new data show

According to recent federal data, nearly 90 million people in the United States have toxic “forever chemicals” (PFAS) in their drinking water.

Of the 89.3 million people affected across the country, 8.9 million are Floridians. This was determined by the environmental organization Environmental Working Group based on the US Environmental Protection Agency's database.

The data shows that PFAS were present in 33% of the systems tested so far.

The latest numbers reported by utilities to EPA are part of a national effort to test water systems serving more than 3,000 people between now and 2026 for the presence of 29 PFAS compounds.

PFAS (perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are toxic even in small amounts because they do not break down and can accumulate in the body. Long-term exposure can increase the risk of cancer, harm developing fetuses, and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

“It's pretty shocking,” said David Andrews, deputy director of investigations and chief scientist at the Environmental Working Group, who has been studying PFAS contamination in water for more than a decade.

Andrews said the true extent of drinking water contamination is likely far greater than previously reported because the EPA's findings were based on only the most recent tests of about a third of the water systems that serve 90 percent of the population.

“I think we're going to see a lot more reports over the next two years about the contaminants being discovered, particularly in smaller drinking water systems,” Andrews said.

“But I will say that I was involved in a peer-reviewed paper that came out a few years ago. In it, we calculated that probably 200 million people have PFAS in their drinking water.”

The EPA last month issued drinking water contamination limits for six of these PFAS chemicals, including four parts per trillion for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which are classified as hazardous substances.

Click here to see a full list of the latest numbers from utilities in Florida and across the country. You can also find an updated interactive PFAS map for the U.S. here.

Filtration is the best way to remove PFAS from your faucet, and researchers at the Environmental Working Group tested 10 popular water filters to measure how well each reduces the chemical load.

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