This article first appeared in the ColoradoBoulevard.net January 2021 print edition.
Little is known about the potential long-term health effects of low concentrations of so-called “forever chemicals” in the tap water drunk by many San Gabriel Valley residents.
By William J. Kelly
Fluorinated compounds, commonly known as PFAS, have been found in water samples in Monterey Park, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, Rosemead, and LaVerne, according to the Environmental Working Group. One PFAS compound, known as PFHxA, also has been found routinely in imported water the Metropolitan Water District (“Met”) supplies to Southern California cities, acknowledges Rebecca Kimitch, Met spokesperson.
Pasadena Water & Power monitors water for PFAS, said spokesperson Margie Otto, but so far has found its water is free of the compounds. South Pasadena water monitoring data show its tap water contains PFHxA. Both cities rely on well water, but they also import water from Met.
As more cities systematically test for PFAS, said Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist David Andrews, more will find them in their tap water. “A number of systems in the valley have detected PFAS, and it is likely that many have some level of contamination,” he said.
PFAS Sources and Health Effects
PFAS are ubiquitous, don’t break down, and are highly mobile once they get into the water. These chemicals have been used since the 1950s in a growing variety of products, such as non-stick cookware, stain resistant carpet, paint, personal care products, fast food packing, and fire retardants.
According to Met, scientific studies show high concentrations of the bio accumulative compounds are associated with a variety of health effects, from decreased fertility and high cholesterol, to thyroid and liver disease and reduced response to vaccines. There’s also concern about carcinogenicity. However, little is known about how regular ingestion of the chemicals at the low parts per trillion levels found in drinking water in San Gabriel Valley and around the world affect human health.
California and EPA Studies to Clarify Health Effects
It is expected that the State of California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soon will answer questions about safe levels of “forever chemicals” in drinking water. In California, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is conducting a scientific review of how the chemicals affect human health. The study is expected to provide the basis for new drinking water standards to assure public health and safety.
In Washington, the GOP Administration in its remaining days was aiming to weaken a recent EPA study to head off any federal drinking water standards for PFAS, according to the Environmental Working Group. With Joe Biden becoming President, Trump’s last-ditch effort unlikely affected that EPA study.
> This article appeared in the ColoradoBoulevard.net January 2021 print edition.
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