The Environmental Work Group (EWG) has released a new report citing that contamination of U.S. drinking water with toxic fluorinated compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is worse than previously estimated. In 2018, the EWG estimated that 110 million Americans' water supply may be contaminated with PFAS, but today feels this estimate could be too low.
With the EWG now mapping PFAS contamination of drinking water or ground water in almost 1,400 sites in 49 states, Culligan International, a world leader in the treatment of water, is sharing tips to help individuals ensure the water in their home is clean and safe.
PFAS comprises a group of manmade chemicals that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Manufactured in the U.S. since the 1940s, these chemicals are found in a wide variety of commercial, industrial and residential products including fire-retarding foams, waterproofing, cleaning products, coating adhesives for non-stick cookware and stain-resistant carpets. PFASs typically do not break down in the environment, especially when spilled or improperly disposed of, and they can seep into the ground water and then into water supplies.
If PFAS is ingested, it can be absorbed and build-up in the body over time. Studies indicate that exposure to PFAS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects. Culligan recommends homeowners follow several steps to ensure access to clean, safe water.
- Know where water contamination can occur. Water impurities are not just limited to the water source, but can also happen in the distribution system after treatment from the local municipality or private well has already occurred. While many naturally occurring chemicals and impurities from local water treatments can be filtered at the source, contamination can occur in service pipes. These issues are commonly found in homes built prior to 1986 when lead pipes, fixtures and solder were regularly used.
- Learn about the filtration system currently in place at your home. Basic water filters such as charcoal pitchers and refrigerator cartridges can help improve the taste of water, but may not remove nor reduce harmful impurities such as PFOAs. Water treatment solutions such as water softeners, reverse osmosis systems and specialty filters reduce specific impurities that may be found in your water.
- Notice any issues that may be caused by water impurities. Some signs of problem water include corroded plumbing fixtures, unpleasant odors, disagreeable taste, discolored water and even shortened appliance lifespan. It is important to note that some water contaminants cannot be detected by taste, smell or color. In these cases, only a water test can identify an issue.
- Schedule a test to identify impurities in your water. Water contamination can happen at any time, so it is important to have your water tested by a water expert who can offer solutions to bring your water to meet safe drinking water regulations as set forth by the EPA. While testing can be done at any time, Culligan recommends scheduling a water test as a result of one of several key factors, including after moving into a new house, if appliances that use water are collecting residue or burning out, and as soon as a noticeable change happens to your water's taste, odor or appearance. Well water should also be tested whenever any changes in your water such as color, taste, odor or cloudiness are noticed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is recommended to test well water annually to ensure it does not contain harmful contaminants.
- Assess the current state of your water and treat any issues appropriately. Your water treatment professional will work with you to identify any impurities found in your test results and will recommend specific solutions for your water needs.
- Ensure your current water filtration system is up-to-date. If your home already has a water filtration system in place, it is important to continue the ongoing maintenance required. This includes scheduling filter replacements as needed.
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