Josie Taylor | June 21, 2022
The treated drinking water of a northeast Iowa city had nearly 3,000 times the safe amount of PFAS chemicals when it was tested in February, according to new federal advisories announced last Wednesday.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been sampling water in dozens of cities in the past year to help determine the pervasiveness of PFAS or “forever chemicals.”
They have been used for decades to make non-stick and waterproof products, firefighting foams and other items. Recent studies have shown that they can accumulate in people’s bodies over time and can cause numerous ailments, including cancers, liver damage, diminished immune systems and infant and childhood development delays, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2009, the EPA set a safety threshold of 70 parts per trillion for the two most-prominent PFAS. On Wednesday, it lowered the health advisory of one of them to .004 parts per trillion and the other to .02 parts per trillion. Current testing technology is unable to detect concentrations that small.
The DNR’s testing can detect concentrations as small as 1.9 parts per trillion. That means that one of the PFAS would have to be 475 times the safety threshold before it is even detected.