A canal in California separating two almond orchards

In an aerial view, an irrigation canal runs between almond orchards on May 26, 2021 in Snelling, California.

(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Analysis Shows Toxic 'Forever Chemicals' Found in Over 80% of US Waterways

Prevalence of PFAS chemicals known to cause cancer and other harms to people and wildlife "demonstrate that existing laws and regulations are inadequate for protecting us."

A new study based on localized surveys of waterways across the United States found that more than 80% of streams, canals, creeks, and rivers in the country contain detectable levels of toxic "forever chemicals" that scientists warn can cause an array of damaging harm to people, communities, and wildlife.

According to reporting by the Guardian, the new Waterkeeper Alliance analysis "found detectable PFAS levels in 95 out of 114, or 83%, of waterways tested across 34 states and the District of Columbia, and frequently at levels that exceed federal and state limits."

As the news outlet notes:

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 12,000 chemicals often used to make products resist water, stain and heat. They are called "forever chemicals" because they don't naturally break down, and are linked to cancer, liver problems, thyroid issues, birth defects, kidney disease, decreased immunity and other serious health problems.

Previous analyses have used municipal utility data to estimate that the chemicals are contaminating drinking water for over 200 million people, while another study found widespread contamination of groundwater drawn by private and municipal wells.

Speaking with the Guardian, Waterkeeper Alliance CEO Marc Yaggi said the analysis' findings "clearly show widespread PFAS contamination across the country and demonstrate that existing laws and regulations are inadequate for protecting us."

And because many of the detected chemicals are not officially designated as hazardous substances by the Environmental Protection Agency, Yaggi warns that U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for cleaning up contaminated areas--"subsidizing the industrial polluters," he said.

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