What Are Forever Chemicals in Drinking Water?

January 15, 2024

Water,Splash,water,Splash,Isolated,On,White,Background,waterIn recent years, there has been growing concern regarding the presence of forever chemicals in drinking water. Forever chemicals, scientifically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a group of human-made chemicals that are resistant to degradation in the environment. They have been widely used in various industrial and consumer products for decades, including firefighting foams, non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and food packaging. However, the presence of these chemicals in drinking water raises serious health concerns. Here’s everything you need to know about forever chemicals in drinking water.

Understanding Forever Chemicals

Forever chemicals are called as such because they have a long persistence in both the environment and human bodies. PFAS compounds are composed of carbon and fluorine atoms, which make them highly stable and resistant to breaking down. This stability allows them to persist in the environment for a long time, leading to widespread contamination. Additionally, these chemicals can accumulate in the human body over time due to their resistance to degradation and excretion.

Sources of Contamination

Forever chemicals can enter drinking water sources through various pathways. One of the primary sources is industrial facilities that manufacture or use PFAS compounds. These chemicals can be discharged into rivers, lakes, and groundwater, contaminating nearby drinking water sources. Another source is the use of firefighting foams that contain PFAS during emergency response activities. These foams can end up contaminating both surface and groundwater. PFAS compounds can also leach into the environment from landfills where products containing these chemicals are disposed of.

Health Effects

Studies have linked exposure to forever chemicals with numerous health effects. PFAS compounds have been associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer, such as kidney and testicular cancer. They have also been linked to liver damage, hormone disruption, reduced fertility, and developmental effects in unborn babies. Furthermore, exposure to PFAS has been associated with an increased risk of high cholesterol levels and immune system dysfunction. While more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects, the evidence indicates that these chemicals are harmful to human health.

Regulation and Guidelines

Recognizing the risks associated with forever chemicals, regulatory agencies have taken steps to address this issue. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a lifetime health advisory level for two specific PFAS compounds, namely perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), in drinking water. The advisory level is set at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS. However, this advisory level is non-enforceable, and there are currently no federal regulations regarding PFAS compounds in drinking water.

Treatment Methods

Removing forever chemicals from drinking water is a complex process. Common treatment methods, such as filtration and chlorination, are ineffective in removing PFAS compounds. However, certain advanced treatment technologies, such as granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption and reverse osmosis, have shown promise in effectively reducing the concentration of forever chemicals in water. When selecting a treatment method, it is important to consult with water treatment professionals who can guide you in choosing the most appropriate and effective solution for your specific needs.

Protecting Yourself

While the responsibility of addressing forever chemicals in drinking water lies with regulatory agencies and water suppliers, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. If you rely on well water, consider getting your water tested for PFAS compounds. Filtration systems that use activated carbon or reverse osmosis can be effective in removing these chemicals. Additionally, reducing the use of products that contain PFAS, such as non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics, can lower your overall exposure.


Forever chemicals in drinking water are a significant concern due to their persistence and potential health effects. Understanding the sources of contamination, the risks associated with these chemicals, and the available treatment methods is crucial in protecting yourself and your loved ones. While the issue of forever chemicals in drinking water requires action at a systemic level, taking steps to reduce your own exposure can contribute to a healthier and safer environment.

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