“FOREVER CHEMICALS” Including PFOA And PFOS Found Heavily in Australian Tap Water:

Imagine filling up a glass of water from your kitchen tap, only to find out it contains harmful chemicals that could be jeopardizing your health. It sounds like a scene from a dystopian novel, but it’s a harsh reality for many Australians.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently unveiled that tap water in parts of Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, Queensland, Victoria, and Perth contains alarming levels of toxic chemicals known as “forever chemicals.” US authorities are ringing alarm bells, warning that these substances are likely carcinogenic with “no safe level of exposure.”

 

What Are These “Forever Chemicals”?

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, include notorious chemicals like PFOA and PFOS. These synthetic chemicals are used in all sorts of products, from non-stick cookware to water-repellent fabrics and firefighting foams. Their tough chemical structure means they don’t break down easily, thus the nickname “forever chemicals.”

The World Health Organization WHO has weighed in, stating that these chemicals are “ubiquitously present in the environment, even in the most remote areas,” and labeling PFOA as “carcinogenic to humans.”

Diagram of PFOA

Where Can PFOA And PFOS Be Found?

These chemicals are sneaky. They don’t just infiltrate our tap water; they make their way into our bodies through various everyday items such as cosmetics, non-stick cookware, and even building materials. They’re used to make products that resist oil, stains, water, and heat. Think about the convenience of non-stick pans or stain-resistant fabrics—these benefits come with a hidden cost.

 According to Sydney Morning Herald:
“Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a dedicated campaigner against toxic chemicals and a member of United Nations expert committees, has called it a “national disgrace” that Australia allows PFOA levels in tap water that are 140 times the maximum limit set by the US.”

How They Enter Our Tap Water?

These Toxic chemicals can enter our water supply through many ways including:

1- Surface and Groundwater Contamination: Once PFAS enter rivers, lakes, and aquifers, they become part of the water cycle. Municipal water treatment plants draw from these contaminated sources to supply drinking water. Traditional water treatment methods, including coagulation, sedimentation, and filtration, are often insufficient in removing PFAS due to their chemical stability and resistance to degradation.

2 – Insufficient Treatment Technologies: Most conventional water treatment plants are not equipped with technologies specifically designed to remove PFAS. While methods like activated carbon filtration and reverse osmosis are effective, they are not widely implemented due to cost and logistical challenges.

3 – Recycling and Reuse: In regions where water recycling and reuse are common, treated wastewater containing PFAS can be used for agricultural irrigation, groundwater recharge, or even direct potable reuse, thereby reintroducing PFAS into the water supply cycle.

How Do Australia’s Standards Compare?

Here’s a jarring comparison: Under new US EPA rules, water providers must ensure that levels of PFOS and PFOA don’t exceed 4 parts per trillion. Australia’s guidelines? They allow 70 parts per trillion of PFOS and 560 parts per trillion of PFOA. That’s a staggering difference, raising serious questions about water safety standards in Australia.

 

Health Implications

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Exposure: Exposure to PFAS can have severe health consequences:

  • Short-Term: Liver damage, thyroid disease, hormone disruption.
  • Long-Term: Cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, decreased fertility, developmental issues in infants.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), these chemicals have been extensively studied and are linked to significant health harms, including cancer and damage to reproductive and immune systems.

sydney morning herald water chart

What Can We Do?

Implement a reverse osmosis system for drinking water

One of the most effective solutions for ensuring clean drinking water is installing a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system, which often includes an Activated Carbon Filter. These systems are incredibly efficient.  

Our a Reverse Osmosis water filters can eliminate up to 98 percent of total dissolved solids (TDS), FLUORIDE, lead, heavy metals, ions, bacteria, viruses, chlorine, colloids, silt, and various other contaminants like forever chemicals, PFAS (per-and poly fluoroalkyl substances), PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) from your water source. This ensures that you have access to Pure and Safe drinking water.

Long-Term Measures

Regulatory changes are essential. Australia needs stricter water quality standards that align with or surpass those of the US. Investing in upgraded water treatment facilities can also help keep these harmful chemicals at bay.

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Conclusion

The discovery of PFAS in our tap water is a stark wake-up call. It’s not just about staying informed; it’s about taking action—whether that’s advocating for better regulations, installing advanced water filtration systems, or simply being more aware of the products we use daily. Protecting ourselves and our children from the hidden dangers in our tap water is crucial for our health, wellness, and safety moving forward.

Thought-Provoking Question: How can we ensure that technological and industrial advancements do not compromise our essential natural resources, like clean water?

References:

Sydney Morning Harald
International Agency For Research On Cancer
Friends Of Earth Australia
Daily Mail
9 NEWS

PFAS Removal from Tap Water

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