More than a third of water courses tested in the UK would breach our limits for ‘forever chemicals’
New analysis has revealed that 35 and 37 percent of water courses tested in England and Wales contain medium or high-risk levels of PFOS and PFOA respectively, which are types of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). PFAS are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because they are near indestructible in the natural environment or in our bodies.
There is growing evidence that some PFAS carry serious health risks including cancer, thyroid disease, and fertility problems as well as developmental defects in unborn children. While they can be filtered out of drinking water, UK water companies are not required by law to reduce them until they are deemed ‘high risk’.
Current standards allow concentrations of each individual PFAS at up to 10 times the level considered ‘low risk’, which is 10ng/L (nanograms per litre). There are hundreds of different types of PFAS but there is currently no overarching limit on the total concentration when they are combined.
For comparison, the US is introducing a new limit of four nanograms per litre (ng/L) for each of PFOS and PFOA, two of the most common PFAS, while the EU’s Drinking Water Directive states that 20 widespread PFAS must collectively not exceed 100 ng/L.
Acceptable levels of PFAS
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