As reported in the Guardian, a major mapping project has revealed PFAS has been found at high levels at thousands of sites across the UK and Europe. An excerpt from the full article is below.

Pollutants known as “forever chemicals”, which don’t break down in the environment, build up in the body and may be toxic.

The map shows that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a family of about 10,000 chemicals valued for their non-stick and detergent properties, have made their way into water, soils and sediments from a wide range of consumer products, firefighting foams, waste and industrial processes.

Two PFAS have been linked to an array of health problems. PFOA has been connected with kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertension. PFOS has been associated with reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney, and thyroid disease. At lower levels PFAS have been associated with immunotoxicity. The substances have been found at about 17,000 sites across the UK and Europe.

‘Drinking water sources in the UK have been contaminated with PFAS’

In the UK, the highest levels of PFAS were found in a discharge from a chemicals plant on the River Wyre, above Blackpool. Fish in the river have been found to contain high levels of PFAS, with flounder containing up to 11,000ng/kg, according to data from Defra’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.

Prof Ian Cousins, an environmental scientist at Stockholm University, said that sites with readings above 1,000ng/kg should be “urgently assessed” so that they can be remediated.

The map shows that drinking water sources in the UK have been contaminated with PFAS but water companies say that the chemicals do not make it into the final tap water because it would first either be blended with another source to dilute the PFAS, or it would undergo a specialised treatment process and be removed.

Data obtained from water companies and the Environment Agency by the Guardian and Watershed shows that since 2006 about 120 samples of drinking water sources have been found to contain concentrations of PFOS or PFOA at above the 100ng/l level – the point at which the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s (DWI) guidelines state that water companies should take action to reduce it before supplying it to people’s homes. Until 2009, the DWI guideline limit was much higher, at 3,000ng/l.

The mapping project is a collaboration between the Guardian, Watershed Investigations, Le Monde (France), NDR, WDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), RADAR Magazine and Le Scienze (Italy), The Investigative Desk and NRC (Netherlands), and Investigative Journalism for Europe. 

The full article in the Guardian can be found here.

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