Yes, there are still traces of PFOS, PFOA, and PFAS in tap water.
Both PFOS and PFOA are no longer produced in the UK due to restrictions on their use. There are also a number of PFASs, meanwhile, that are still in use and unregulated.
In the samples of tap water, the BBC analysis discovered 18 different kinds of PFAS compounds.
Scientists worry that the permitted concentrations of harmful PFAS, also referred to as “forever chemicals,” in drinking water are too high.
In over half of the samples, PFAS levels were higher above the European safety levels, according to a BBC analysis. None, however, went above the standard of safety in England and Wales at the time.
PFAs are found in various products, including non-stick cookware, food packaging, carpets, furniture, and firefighting foam. PFAs have been linked to cancer and other disorders.
The Drinking Water Inspectorate, which oversees England and Wales, has guidelines that specify there should be no more than 100 ng/l of PFAS chemicals in drinking water. Action must be taken to lower levels above that.
Scotland has made a commitment to uphold European standards in 2019.
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The BBC collected 45 samples of tap water from locations in England in collaboration with the University of Greenwich and Manchester Metropolitan University. None, according to a laboratory investigation, had levels higher than 100ng/l.
However, four of the 25 samples did have PFAS levels that were higher than 10 ng/l, which means that, in accordance with the existing recommendations, levels must be monitored and local healthcare specialists must be consulted.
Additionally, approximately half of the samples were above the 2.2ng/l permissible level set by the European Food Standards Agency.
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“The relevance of your data, even though they’re minor, is that it highlights that this thing is everywhere and that it’s in drinking water,” said Professor Roger Klein, a chemist and expert on PFAS.
That the Drinking Water Inspectorate requires a level of 100ng/l before taking action is absurd.
The University of Michigan’s Rita Lock-Caruso, a professor of toxicology, added that the findings raised a possible health concern: “We’re discovering health consequences at lower and lower concentrations – in the single digits.”
According to research, the most prevalent PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, may be linked to conditions like high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension in addition to kidney and testicular cancer.
The impact on children is a particular source of worry. Harvard University professor Philippe Grandjean said: “A woman may accumulate this in her body, and when she becomes pregnant, she shares that with her fetus. She releases some of the weight of her body into her milk. As a result, the baby may end up with up to 10 times than much PFAS in her blood as her mother does, giving the next generation a massive dosage.
The US is thinking about dropping its regulatory bar from 70ng/l.
Linda Birnbaum, a former director of the National Institute of Environmental Sciences, said, “We are starting to consider that there is no such thing as a safe level and we want them to be as low as possible, because water is not the only source of exposure.”
However, there is little publicly available information about it or its effects in the UK.