“Forever Chemicals” Found in Drinking Water Are Far More Toxic Than Previously Thought, EPA Announces

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), two chemicals found in drinking water across the United States, are likely carcinogenic to humans and safe levels of exposure should be thousands of times lower than the agency first proposed in 2016.

These chemicals, along with others in the same family, are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not degrade in the environment, accumulate in living organisms, and buildup in the blood stream once ingested.

PFOA and PFOS can be found in everyday products such as:

  • Cookware
  • Carpets
  • Furniture
  • Personal care products (shampoo, cosmetics, dental floss)
  • Food packaging (Pizza boxes, fast-food wrappers, grease-resistant paper)

A recent toxicity assessment found that people can safely ingest 25 times less of the chemicals than previously thought in 2018.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board also received documents from their Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW) and Office of Science and Technology (OST) supporting the EPA’s findings.

According to Environmental Working Group (EWG) researchers, the substances date back to 1946 when DuPont first began developing non-stick cookware made with Teflon. Since then, the waterproof, stain-repellant chemicals have branched off into a family of thousands of other chemical groups known as “PFAS”.

Studies found that Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and New Jersey suburbs outside of New York City have some of the highest levels of the PFAS chemicals in their drinking water. More than 200 million people nationwide are exposed to PFAS through their tap water, despite the substances mostly phased out in 2015 due to previous alarming EPA findings. Up to 99% Americans now have at least some level of PFAS in their body, according to EWG.

EWG scientists also concluded that PFAS chemicals are likely detectable in every major water supply across the United States.

Exposure to PFAS Can Occur When:

  • Drinking water contaminated with PFAS
  • Breathing air contaminated with PFAS
  • Eating food, particularly fish, that consumed PFAS
  • Handling paper-packaged food contaminated with PFAS

Considering even the smallest of amounts of PFAS have been linked to cancer, the EPA findings prove extremely worrying. The EPA’s main area of concern is that PFAS tend to break down extremely slowly before eventually presenting in people, animals, and the environment as time passes.

It’s not the first time PFAS have been linked to having deadly consequences. For decades, studies have continued to show the disturbing side effects of any kind of exposure to the “forever chemicals”.

  • 1956 – Stanford University researchers discover that PFAS bind to proteins in human blood, leading to their “forever chemical” nickname.
  • 1965 – DuPont rat study finds that liver damage and an enlarged spleen were side effects of exposure to PFAS.
  • 1978 – 3M concludes the chemical used to create DuPont’s Teflon should be regarded as “toxic”.
  • 1989 – 3M studies show elevated cancer rates among workers who worked with, or were exposed to, PFAS.

Given the most recent disturbing findings, the EPA is adjusting drinking water health advisories with new peer-reviewed approaches while rushing to create National Primary Drinking Water Regulations surrounding PFAS contaminants.

Cory Watson’s team of lawyers have fought to get justice and compensation for people harmed by dangerous chemicals like PFAS for decades. If you’ve been harmed by PFAS or another toxic chemical, contact us today to discuss your case with the experienced environmental personal injury lawyers by calling (877) 562-0000. 


Cory Watson Attorneys is a nationally recognized personal injury law firm with offices in Birmingham, Alabama; Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. The firm has recovered more than $3 billion for clients across the country. Attorneys are frequently at the forefront of major class actions and multidistrict litigations involving dangerous pharmaceuticals and product liability, and are often appointed to leadership positions in national cases. Firm practice areas include Personal Injury, Product Liability, Class Action, Asbestos, Business & Commercial Litigation, Dangerous Pharmaceuticals, Defective Medical Devices, and Environmental/Toxic Torts. To learn more, visit CoryWatson.com.

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