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Ask Dr. Nandi: CDC study to track dangerous 'forever chemicals' in drinking water

Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-30 23:03:09-04

(WXYZ) — The first of a kind study, looking at ‘forever chemicals’ in our drinking water and how they may be affecting our health. Seven states are taking part, and Michigan is one of them.

Forever chemicals are a group of man-made chemicals called PFAS otherwise known as per-and polyfluorinated substances. They’re called ‘forever chemicals’ because basically they do just that, they stick around forever.

They don’t degrade in the environment and they can accumulate in your body.

Now these chemicals have been used in many products because they resist things like heat, oil, grease and water. So you can now find PFAS almost everywhere.

For instance, PFAS have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, even some cosmetics. And drinking water can get contaminated just like in Parchment-Cooper Township, Michigan, where PFAS compounds were found to be well over the safety limit. And that was likely due to a former paper mill that was making food wrapping materials and dumping PFAS-containing wastes.

The goal of this multi-state study is to provide answers. Right now, there are many communities across the US with high levels of PFAS, which is very concerning.

The study plans to recruit 6,000 adults and roughly 2,000 children nationwide, who all have been exposed to PFAS in drinking water. And hopefully, the data collected will help all us better understand exactly how our health is being affected. And possibility set new safety limits when it comes to PFAS contamination in drinking water.

We know that PFAS like to stick to proteins and accumulate in organs. And some studies, but not all, have found this can affect humans in many ways.

For instance, the CDC says that certain PFAS may:

  • increase cholesterol levels
  • affect the immune system
  • interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • increase the risk of cancer
  • and affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and children

Now remember, this is not conclusive, which is why more research is needed to better understand the direct effect PFAS have on our health.