Many Americans' water is now contaminated with PFAS chemicals.

Austin Kirk | CC-BY-2.0

By Shannon Halinski

PFAS has now been detected at 2,858 individual sites around the US according to the Environmental Working Group, who also estimated that in 2020, 200 million Americans drink water that contains PFAS everyday.  A new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center in conjunction with the Frontier Group and PIRG Education Fund explores the contamination in more depth.

What is PFAS?

PFAS stands for per and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Their other nickname is ‘forever chemicals.’ The rather apt moniker refers to their pesky quality of sticking around- PFAS chemicals seldom decays in nature on their own. Once it’s in our environment, or even our bodies, it’s there to stay. Given this quality and the widespread use of PFAS, it should be no surprise that it is estimated that almost every American has PFAS in their blood.

Is PFAS bad for you? 

PFAS exposure has been linked to several different types of cancer, including kidney cancer, and a decreased immune and vaccine response. Recent research has linked exposure to impacts on hormones important for children’s growth and development.

How do you know if your water is contaminated? 

While drinking water utilities are not currently required to test for PFAS, the PFAS Project Lab staff have carefully assembled data to create an interactive map of known and presumed pollution across the country. 

At many of these sites, contamination results from industrial manufacturing or the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams at military installations and airports.

PFAS Exchange and PFAS Project Lab | Used by permission

We’re working to turn off the tap on toxic chemicals. No one should unknowingly drink toxic water. We need to stop the output of toxic chemicals into our environment, and ourselves. 


Lisa Frank

Executive Director, Environment America Research & Policy Center; Vice President and D.C. Director, The Public Interest Network

Lisa leads Environment America’s work for a greener, healthier world. She also directs The Public Interest Network’s Washington, D.C., office and operations. A pragmatic idealist, Lisa has helped win billions of dollars in investments in clean energy and transportation and developed strategic campaigns to protect America’s oceans, forests and public lands. Lisa is an Oregonian transplant to the Capital region, where she loves hiking, running, biking, and cooking for friends and family.

Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.