“It’s just the Flint of the Iceberg“ ~ J.B.
More than six million people in the US drink and use water that is contaminated with deadly toxins, a new study reveals.
Life-threatening concentrations of a carcinogenic man-made chemical – normally used to fight fire, insulate pipes, and stain-proof furniture – have been found in public water tanks across America.
The most at-risk states are (in order): California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
The Harvard University study, published on Tuesday, warns the figures are likely woeful underestimates, since government data does not account for a third of the country – and therefore omits around 100 million people.
It comes amid the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, over lead-poisoned water.
The scandal, which dates back to April 2014, sent shockwaves through the nation as many as 12,000 children were exposed to potentially life-threatening chemicals.
But this new study suggests a similar crisis could be much more widespread.
‘For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities, such as PFASs, were allowed to be used and released to the environment,’ said lead author Xindi Hu, a doctoral student at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health.
‘We now have to face the severe consequences.’
The toxins found in the water supply are called polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances. They are commonly known as PFASs.
PFASs have been used over the past 60 years in industrial and commercial products ranging from food wrappers to clothing to pots and pans.
They have been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, and obesity.
The researchers looked at concentrations of six types of PFASs in drinking water supplies, using data from more than 36,000 water samples collected nationwide by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2013-2015.
They also looked at industrial sites that manufacture or use PFASs; at military fire training sites and civilian airports where fire-fighting foam containing PFASs is used; and at wastewater treatment plants.
Safety officials have yet to find a way to remove PFASs from wastewater by standard treatment methods so they easily contaminate the public supply.
The sludge that the plants generate – which is frequently used as fertilizer – could also contaminate public water.
The study found that PFASs were detectable at the minimum reporting levels required by the EPA in 194 out of 4,864 water supplies in 33 states across the U.S.
Drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75 per cent of the detections, including, in order of frequency of detection, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
Sixty-six of the public water supplies examined, serving six million people, had at least one water sample that measured at or above the EPA safety limit. The limit is 70 parts of PFASs per trillion (ng/L).
Concentrations ranged as high as 1,800 ng/L for PFOS. That was in Newark, Delaware.
The highest levels of PFASs were detected in watersheds near industrial sites, military bases, and wastewater treatment plants–all places where these chemicals may be used or found.
‘These compounds are potent immunotoxicants in children and recent work suggests drinking water safety levels should be much lower than the provisional guidelines established by EPA,’ said Elsie Sunderland, senior author of the study and associate professor at the Harvard Chan School.
Although several major manufacturers have discontinued the use of some PFASs, the chemicals continue to persist in people and wildlife.
Drinking water is one of the main routes through which people can be exposed.
The social costs stemming from the scandal amount to $395 million, according to a recent analysis by a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents in Flint, which has a population of about 100,000, who say their children have shown dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.
In July six state employees in Michigan were criminally charged in connection with the case.
Some critics have called for high-ranking state officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, to be charged. Snyder said he believes he’s done nothing criminally wrong.
Here is a timeline of the events:
APRIL 2014: In an effort to save money, Flint began drawing its water from the Flint River instead of relying on water from Detroit.
The move was considered temporary while the city waited to connect to a new regional water system.
Residents immediately complained about the smell, taste and appearance of the water. They also raised health concerns, reporting rashes, hair loss and other problems.
SUMMER 2014: Three boil-water advisories were issued in 22 days after positive tests for coliform bacteria.
OCTOBER 2014: A General Motors engine plant stopped using Flint water, saying it rusted parts.
JANUARY 2015: Flint sought an evaluation of its efforts to improve the water amid concerns that it contained potentially harmful levels of a disinfection byproduct.
Detroit offered to reconnect Flint to its water system. Flint insisted its water was safe.
JAN. 28 2015: Flint residents snapped up 200 cases of bottled water in 30 minutes in a giveaway program. More giveaways followed in ensuing months.
FEB. 3 2015: State officials pledged $2 million for Flint’s troubled water system.
FEBRUARY 2015: A 40-member advisory committee was formed to address concerns over Flint’s water.
Mayor Dayne Walling said the committee would ensure the community was involved in the issue.
MARCH 19 2015: Flint promised to spend $2.24 million on immediate improvements to its water supply.
MARCH 27 2015: Flint officials said the quality of its water had improved and that testing found the water met all state and federal standards for safety.
SEPT. 24 2015: A group of doctors led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center urged Flint to stop using the Flint River for water after finding high levels of lead in the blood of children. State regulators insisted the water was safe.
SEPT. 29 2015: Gov. Rick Snyder pledged to take action in response to the lead levels. It was the first acknowledgment by the state that lead was a problem.
OCT. 2 2015: Snyder announced that the state would spend $1 million to buy water filters and test water in Flint public schools.
OCT. 8 2015: Snyder called for Flint to go back to using water from Detroit’s system again.
OCT. 15 2015: The Michigan Legislature and Snyder approved nearly $9.4 million in aid to Flint, including $6 million to help switch its drinking water back to Detroit. The legislation also included money for water filters, inspections and lab testing.
NOV. 3 2015: Voters elected newcomer Karen Weaver over incumbent Mayor Dayne Walling amid fallout over the drinking water.
DEC. 29 2015: Snyder accepted the resignation of Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and apologized for what occurred in Flint.
JAN. 5 2016: Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint, the same day federal officials confirmed that they were investigating.
JAN. 12 2016: Snyder activated the Michigan National Guard to help distribute bottled water and filters in Flint and asked the federal government for help.
JAN. 13 2016: Michigan health officials reported an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases during periods over the past two years in the county that includes Flint.
JAN. 14 2016: Snyder asked the Obama administration for major disaster declaration and more federal aid.
JAN. 16 2016: President Barack Obama signed emergency declaration and ordered federal aid for Flint, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts.
APRIL 2016: Governor Rick Snyder hit back at critics who said he should be charged. Snyder said he believes he’s done nothing criminally wrong.
JULY 2016: Six state employees in Michigan criminally charged in connection with the case.
Written by Mia De Graff and published by The Daily Mail ~ August 9, 2016.
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