The Maryland Department of the Environment has announced a plan to begin testing the state’s water sources for PFAS – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – as a first step toward regulating and removing these harmful chemicals from Maryland’s drinking water. Regulators will collect hundreds of water samples all around the state.
What Are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are man-made chemical compounds present in a wide range of commonly used products such as cleaning agents, nonstick cookware, stain-repellent fabrics, and firefighting foams. PFAS sink into the soil at sites like landfills and firefighting training grounds, and then slowly seep into groundwater, contaminating water sources.
PFAS are often called “forever chemicals,” which means they do not break down easily and tend to accumulate. They are so ubiquitous that they were present in the blood of practically all tested subjects across the U.S.
Why You Should Be Concerned About PFAS
Various studies have linked PFAS to kidney, liver, and reproductive system dysfunction. Animals exposed to high levels of PFAS have shown altered hormone levels and changes in liver, pancreas, and thyroid function. While results of human studies are still inconclusive, PFAS exposure to humans may cause:
- Hormonal disruption
- Immune system dysfunction
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Lower fertility in women
- Growth, behavior, and learning disruptions in infants and children
- Increased risk of cancer and tumor growth
Recent reports have revealed the presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the drinking water near Fort Meade Army Base. These substances (which are known cancer-causing agents) are the main ingredients in AFFF fire-fighting foam, which would explain their presence near an army base. PFAS have also been found in a South Branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia, two sites in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, and a Maryland creek. In addition, there is some concern that PFAS associated with fire-fighting foams may have contaminated the six-state Chesapeake Bay watershed due to their use on military bases and airports. While the government has phased out the use of AFFFs, the environmental damage has already been done. AFFF contaminated water has been linked to serious health issues, including cancer, child development issues, liver diseases, and asthma.
What the State of Maryland Can Do
While some European countries have already taken action in restricting the use of PFAS, there is no federal safety standard for levels of PFAS in drinking water in the U.S., despite numerous warnings from environmental agencies. Furthermore, data on the presence of these chemicals in Maryland waters is minimal.
A test in Prince George’s County by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization, revealed a PFAS concentration of 17.8 parts per trillion. This, although complying with the EPA guidelines, far exceeds what the group defines as a safe level.
As of now, the State of Maryland has not set or proposed a safety standard for PFAS concentration in drinking water. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is currently working on establishing national safety standards for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most common PFAS chemicals.
As the testing program kicks into action, we expect to see high levels of PFAS discovered around landfills, wastewater treatment plants, military sites, and firefighting training grounds.
Remediation and Prevention
In the case of high PFAS levels, a possible remediation program may include using activated carbon for filtering the hazardous chemicals out of water sources. This had positive results in environmental programs that have battled contamination by different toxins.
Other treatment options are ion exchange resins, which function like tiny magnets, and high-pressure membranes, which work through nanofiltration or reverse osmosis.
A further step towards lowering PFAS levels in the environment is reducing the use of these chemicals across industries. Following consumer demand, leading brands such as IKEA and H&M have eliminated PFAS from their factory lines.
Several states have passed laws restricting the use of PFAS in firefighting foams and food packaging. On a federal level, the National Defense Authorization Act proposes a significant reduction in the use of PFAS by the Department of Defense.
Through lifestyle choices, people may reduce their exposure to PFAS by preferring fresh home-cooked meals, minimizing consumption of packaged food, choosing stainless steel and cast iron over nonstick cookware, and checking their drinking water data through their local water utility.
Make Sure the Water You Drink Is Clean and Safe
We all hope the environmental hazards PFAS pose will be addressed and resolved. Right now, however, our water sources are in danger of contamination, and drinking tap water without further filtering aside from the filtering completed by the Washington Subsidiary Sanitary Commission (WSSC) may not be an optimal health choice.
Bottled water may be an option for some people, but it is expensive, inconvenient, and doesn’t solve the issue of using possibly contaminated water for showering and household tasks.
To ensure your tap water is always clean and safe to consume and use, you might want to consider installing a household water filtration system.
The Hague WaterMax® BEQ water filtration system will provide high-quality, safe, and fresh-tasting water for your home. It will also resolve issues such as hard water, sediment, and taste of chlorine.
Hague Quality Water offers a free onsite water test to every new customer. Additionally, our new service includes an extensive and reliable contact-less water quality test kit for $200 that we send by mail. Following this, a lab tests the water sample, and results are sent directly to the customer.
Our Maryland-based water experts will be happy to answer your call and provide a free consultation on water filtration options for your household. Call us today at (410) 757-2992.