Keeping your family safe can often feel like an impossible task, however, monitoring your drinking water for hazardous chemicals is one way you can protect your family from danger right in your home. Water quality testing is a comprehensive measure families can take to ensure dangerous chemicals are not entering you or your children's bloodstreams. While the 2014 Flint Water Crisis in Michigan showcased the shocking extent to which lead can affect child development, other chemicals commonly found in cleaning products, home insulation, and even your clothes can enter your community’s water supply, wreaking havoc on your health without proper testing and filtration.
Artificially-produced chemicals are dangerous because the body struggles to break them down. Instead, our bodies absorb them – leading to health effects that transcend a one-time ailment. One particular group of substances, deemed the “forever chemicals,” are present in almost every American’s blood and in more than 45% of people’s drinking water due to traditional wastewater treatment plant limitations. PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are commonly found in consumer items such as non-stick cookware, food packaging, waterproof clothing, and firefighting foam. They have gained significant attention in recent years due to their widespread presence in the environment and potential health risks.
Why are PFAS Hazardous to Human Health?
Over the years, scientists have uncovered a variety of side-effects related to PFAS including cancer, liver damage, and reproductive disorders. Continuous exposure to PFAS over one’s lifetime, which can easily occur through untested drinking water, heightens the risk and severity of these conditions. Pregnant women should be especially cautious of untested drinking water, as exposure to PFAS has been associated with reduced birth weights, developmental delays in infants and children, compromised immune function, and high blood pressure.
Moreover, children with prolonged exposure to PFAS have been found to have decreased vaccine responses. While the chemical is abundantly present in our everyday lives, it is crucial we minimize exposure to protect the health and well-being of our families.
How to Detect PFAS in Your Water
PFAS most often enter drinking water through fire training, industrial, landfill, and wastewater treatment sites. If you live close to these areas, you should be getting your water tested regularly. Additionally, exposure can occur when contaminant-containing products are dumped into lakes and rivers as wastewater treatment plans do not filter out PFAS.
PFAS are not visible to the naked eye, making them impossible to detect without proper testing. Luckily, you can check for PFAS data in your area using the PFAS Exchange interactive map. Otherwise, call your local water utility to see if they have any monitoring data on PFAS levels.
The most reliable PFAS detection indicator is a professional Water Quality Test. WIN tests for a variety of health-hazardous chemicals, including nitrates, coliform bacteria, lead, and arsenic. A Water Quality Test for PFAS can be ordered on request.
PFAS Mitigation Strategies
Fortunately, we can eliminate water contamination from PFAS in our homes. Activated carbon filters can absorb organic compounds, like PFAS, from the water. However, they are less effective in removing shorter-chain variants of it, so you may want to consider a reverse osmosis system instead, especially if you are pregnant or have small children living in the home. Reverse osmosis systems block contaminants from exiting the chamber but allow water to proceed, removing the chemical bottleneck from the system. Still, they are not 100% proven and effective at eliminating all PFAS, so a professional water test is necessary. Contrary to popular belief, boiling water is not an effective method for removing PFAS, as these chemicals are heat resistant.
For those selling or consuming freshwater fish, know that a 2023 Environmental Working Group study noted extreme levels of PFAS in fish in lakes and rivers across the United States. Alarmingly, just one serving of freshwater fish is the same as drinking one month’s worth of PFAS-contaminated water.
Lastly, your home’s location is a risk factor for PFAS exposure. The Center for Disease Control recommends that individuals who live near current or former military bases, airports, or industrial sites where PFAS may have been used should get their blood levels tested to determine their exposure to the chemical and risk of health-related complications.
We highly recommend testing your water for PFAS annually, as it is the most effective mitigation strategy. WIN Home Inspection has certified and experienced professionals who can perform Water Quality Tests for PFAS to help you be proactive against this hazardous chemical.
Case Study: In-home Filtration Systems are Not Enough to Protect Against PFAS
It has been proven that in-home water filters are only partially effective at removing PFAS. A recent study conducted by Duke University and North Carolina State University found that the effectiveness of water filtration systems varied greatly, making the risk of exposure very sporadic. While advanced water filters should rid your drinking water from PFAS in theory, they do not remove the chemical concentration entirely. Whether you have no water filtration system, or you have a standard or advanced one, you should continually get a Water Quality Test to best ensure your drinking water is safe.
Important note: In the event your water tests positive for PFAS, drink bottled water until your tap water is filtered and retested with a negative result.
Commercial brands suffer with ill filtration just the same
Sparkling water brand Topo Chico had the highest amounts of PFAS in 2020, according to Consumer Reports, with Canada Dry and La Croix making it on the list as well. Since, Topo Chico has cut their PFAS levels in half, accompanied by an upgrade in filtration systems. The deterrence even high-selling water brands have from water testing and proper filtration reveals how much we overestimate the quality of our water.
PFAS pose a significant risk to human health, and their presence in our water sources is a growing concern. Understanding the potential health effects of PFAS and taking proactive steps to remove them from your drinking water are essential for safeguarding your well-being. Homeowners can adopt mitigation strategies such as reverse osmosis systems while also regularly testing their water for PFAS contamination. By prioritizing the removal of PFAS from our water supplies, we can take significant strides toward a healthier and safer future.
Don't wait! Take action today and get a comprehensive Water Quality Test by WIN Home Inspection to monitor the purity of your drinking water.