The pollutant-packed sludge I talked about on Wednesday is not just a problem for Maine. Each year wastewater treatment plants throughout the country generate about 7 million dry tons of sludge, which are full of chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
About 60 percent of this sewage sludge in 2019 alone was spread on farmland and gardens, including schoolyards and lawns. Gross!
And this is just one way that regular people can be exposed to PFAS chemicals.
Huge investigations of these contaminants are ongoing for those living near airports (see here, here, and here) and military sites. The Department of Defense has released data on PFAS found at more than 600 sites.
In September 2020, Consumer Reports published results from independent tests that found measurable levels of toxic PFAS chemicals in bottled water, especially the bubbly ones like Perrier, Canada Dry, and Topo Chico.
We Need Regulations Now
At the national level we have a health advisory for two of these chemicals PFOA and PFOS (issued in 2016) at 70 ppt, a standard that considers lifetime exposure to these chemicals.
But a health advisory does not require local water authorities to tell customers when these chemicals are in their water, and many places don’t test for them at all.
Many states have created their own rules to enforce guidance and regulations or are working on then now. Last summer, some of the strictest guidelines in the country for PFOA were set by states, Michigan at 8 ppt and New York at 10 ppt. Other states like Arkansas, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont are in the midst of setting guidelines.
Get More Info
See what’s in your water with this tap water database created by my friends at the Environmental Working Group.
You can also check out this map of suspected industrial sites that discharge PFAS. Here’s looking at you DuPont, 3M, and others.
If you have city water (or on a public water system), contact your local water supplier and ask for information on PFOA and PFOS in your drinking water. Request a copy of your Consumer Confidence Report, which should have details. If PFAS chemicals are not listed, ask your water operator to start testing for them.
If you have private well water, test your water for these chemicals; the EPA recommends using a certified lab.
Choose organic produce whenever you can to avoid food that’s been grown in toxic sludge fertilizer. Sewage sludge is not allowed on fields that grow organic produce.
Do your research before you make new purchases. Consider choosing carpet and furniture brands that don’t use a stain-resistant or water-resistant coating that contain PFAS chemicals. As consumers, you can contact brands and tell them to stop using PFAS in their products.
Beware! Other common sources of PFAS are fast-food packaging, take-out containers, and microwave popcorn bags. McDonald’s recently announced a global ban on PFAS in their packaging that would start in 2025, and consumer advocacy groups are urging them to speed up their timeline. They sell more than a billion Big Macs each year.
Get Involved at the State Level by searching for groups near you working on these issues.
Call your senators: tell them your concerns about PFAS and that you want them to take action to regulate them.