Protecting public health shouldn’t be this hard. When it comes to chemical safety, Congress should shift the burden of proof from regulators to manufacturers. A recent survey conducted by researchers at the U.S. Geographic Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found traces of 18 unregulated chemicals in drinking water from more than one third of U.S. water utilities. Of the 21 total chemicals found, researchers discovered among them 11 perfluorinated chemicals, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial chemical, a metal and an antidepressant.
Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 80,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to EPA estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water.
Regulated chemicals such as fluoride have been added to drinking water supplies for decades without any regard to long-term health. The fluoride added to 90% of drinking water is hydrofluoric acid which is a compound of fluorine that is a chemical byproduct of aluminum, steel, cement, phosphate, and nuclear weapons manufacturing.
According to a study, 50 chemicals capable of interfering with hormones is permitted in packaging in the United States and the European Union.
The American Chemistry Council significantly ramped up its lobbying efforts in 2012, spending more than double its total for any quarter in recent history.
There are 700 new chemicals introduced into commerce each year in the United States alone. Many of these chemicals induce cancer and other diseases in the human body, yet every year there are more disease-causing chemicals carelessly approved to further pollute our environment and water supplies.
In addition to atrazine, triclosan, caffeine, metolachlor, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and nine other perfluorinated compounds, which are used in a variety of industrial processes including production of nonstick or stain resistant products, were found in the drinking water supply. 251 chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and microbes measured were also detected in drinking water of more than a third of the 25 utilities while 113 were found less than a third of the utilities.
Drinking tap water contaminated with PFOA is a serious health risk. The highest measured levels of PFOA in human blood in the US, other than factory exposures, are in people who have consumed PFOA contaminated tap water in West Virginia and Ohio. These people had PFOA levels in their blood 100 times higher than the levels found in the water, and far higher than the average person in the US.
PFOA is linked to developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, alterations in the hormonal levels, metabolic disturbances and an elevated risk of cancer.