A recent, 2021 report by the Environmental Working Group found significant concentrations of PFAS – a family of highly toxic, fluorinated chemicals – in more than 2,800 communities across the United States, including many parts of Illinois. PFAS, known as the “forever chemicals” because they build up in our bodies and never break down, have been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system irregularities, and other diseases. Some high concentrations have been found in groundwater in and around Elgin, where our headquarters of Restore Water Solutions is located!
Where Does PFAS Come From?
According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 41,000 industrial sites are known or suspected of discharging PFAS into the air and water, including:
- More than 4,700 using PFAS for electroplating and polishing
- More than 3,000 petroleum stations and terminals
- More than 2,300 chemical manufacturers
- More than 2,200 metal product manufacturers
- More than 2,100 commercial printing facilities
- More than 1,800 plastics and resin manufacturing sites
- More than 1,500 paint and coating manufacturers
- More than 1,200 semiconductor manufacturers
- More than 1,000 electric component manufacturers
Currently, there are no EPA standards limiting PFAS discharges by such companies into the air and water, though Congress is considering legislation that would place limits on PFAS into water supplies. In particular, The Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act, introduced by Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), was recently included in the Invest in America Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate has also introduced companion legislation.
How Dangerous Are PFAS?
Research continues on the effects of PFAS on the human body, though many scientists say they still don’t know all the dangers. Testing has suggested the presence of such chemicals may decrease infant birth weights, inhibit vaccine response in children, increase the risk of kidney or testicular cancer, lead to high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, and may cause liver damage. Research has linked PFAS to a greater likelihood of:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Infectious diseases such as cold, flu, coughs, bronchitis, etc.
- Neurodevelopmental disorders in children
- Respiratory diseases
- Strokes and blood clotting
- Thyroid disease
- Birth defects
What PFAS Levels Are Considered Dangerous?
The Illinois EPA has set 2 parts per trillion as a benchmark where PFAS needs monitoring. However, there is no common standard for what is considered safe drinking water. For example, Michigan has set a limit of 8 parts per trillion as a threshold for concern about drinking water on one particular member of the PFAS family, a commonly detected chemical called PFOA. The U.S. EPA has recommended a health advisory if water tests at 70 parts per trillion. For the Environmental Working Group, it suggests that anything over 1 part per trillion could potentially be toxic.
How About the Chicagoland Area?
As mentioned above, high concentrations above 2 parts per trillion of PFAS were recently found in groundwater and aquifers in South Elgin. Tests of the water in other Chicago-area water systems, including Lake Forest and Waukegan, found the chemical at just above 2 parts per trillion, as well. In general, much higher levels are seen outside the city of Chicago, such as Rockford, IL, and Winnebago County. In Rockford, in particular, a trailer park community water system serving more than 200 people had to be shut down earlier in 2021 because the PFAS contamination levels were more than double the national EPA advisory level. However, most of the city of Chicago’s water has been found to be PFAS-free for the most part.
In terms of testing for PFAS, Illinois lags other Midwest states, including Michigan which determined it had high levels of PFAS contamination statewide only after extensive examination. As more analysis occurs and more study of PFAS’ true effects on the human body are found, it’s likely to only increase efforts toward industry regulations.
What’s the Solution to PFAS?
For many municipal water companies, cleaning up PFAS in the community water supply is expensive and few have started on such an effort. However, home water filtration systems and point-of-use systems such as the ones we offer at Restore Water Solutions can significantly reduce and essentially eliminate PFAS from your home water supply. You can get started by requesting a free water quality analysis from us. We’ll analyze your water for this chemical family and other known Illinois contaminants. Then, we’ll recommend the filtration system so you can be confident in your drinking water. Learn more by visiting us at https://restoremywater.com or give us a call to get your free water quality analysis today.