70 Million American Homes Are Drinking Toxic Tap Water According to New Study

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Feb 25, 2024

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently tested water systems around the country, and its findings were nothing short of shocking.

The EPA notes that 33% of the homes, or 70 million total, had contaminated tap water, filled with chemicals that have lasting adverse health effects on those who drink it. They call them “forever chemicals” and it’s become a real problem.

What Are Forever Chemicals?

When the EPA conducted its study on tap water in American homes, it was looking for polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals.”

The FDA’s explanation of PFAS, with food, molecules, and take out boxes

Source: FDA

PFAS chemicals can take thousands of years to break down, so essentially, they last forever. And what’s even more terrifying about these chemicals is that they are known to cause health problems, such as high cholesterol, liver damage, hormone imbalance, and much more.

PFAS Are Known to Cause Cancer

In addition to several other health concerns, these forever chemicals are known to cause cancer, specifically in the kidneys and testes.

Woman receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer

Source: Freepik

Additionally, some studies have noted that PFAS increases the risk of breast cancer, as they disrupt the hormonal balance within the body.

Hormonal Disruptions Are Especially Dangerous for Pregnant Women

Researchers studying PFAS have also reported that because the chemicals have a profound effect on a person’s hormones, prolonged exposure can cause fertility problems.

Toddler in a hat is kissing their mother’s pregnant stomach outside

Source: Freepik

Additionally, pregnant women with PFAS in their water system are more likely to experience pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure. Not to mention that babies who are born from mothers whose water is contaminated are far more likely to experience childhood obesity, low birth rate, and severe infection.

PFAS Are Costing Americans a Fortune in Health Care

As well as being extremely dangerous, these chemicals are costing Americans a fortune in health care costs.

Patient paying a nurse hundreds of dollars in cash on to of an insurance form

Source: Freepik

According to a study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, they cost the US an estimated $250 billion in health care in 2018.

What Did the EPA Study Find?

The EPA found PFAS in 3,700 water systems in 2023, which was 33% of the samples collected. That means that overall, it’s highly likely about 70 million American homes have toxic water in their pipes.

A flag with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) logo flies at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Source: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

But that’s just an estimate. In fact, many argue that this study only shows a small percentage of American homes, and that it’s highly likely far more than one-third of the country’s water sources are contaminated.


Water Systems in Cities in the North East Are Most Likely to Be Contaminated

According to the data collected by the EPA, the most toxic water was found in homes in the Northeast. Specifically in cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

An aerial view the One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, New York City

Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The EPA noted that both private, such as wells, and public water sources can be and are contaminated with the chemicals. Essentially proving that the infiltration of PFAS is extremely widespread.


The Environmental Working Group Believes It’s Much Worse

Several environmental organizations, such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG), agree that PFAS are probably in the vast majority of America’s water supply.

Logo for the Environmental Working Group with the text “Know your environment. Know your health.”

Source: @CarolineLeary/Linkedin

A spokesperson for EWG explained, “The full scale of PFAS contamination is likely much more widespread.” And the company’s senior vice president for government affairs, Scott Farber, noted that, “There are many [steps] we must take to reduce PFAS pollution.”


Is the EPA Taking Steps to Remove PFAS from the Water?

It’s important to note the EPA announced only a month after conducting the very concerning study that it would be creating limits for how many PFAS could be found in drinking water throughout the country.

Young girl washing her hands in tap water at a sink

Source: Freepik

The government agency reported that American water should have no more than four parts per trillion. However, Faber argued more action needs to be taken as soon as possible to reduce the sheer number of PFAS in the water supply. He said, “Ending non-essential uses of PFAS, ending industrial discharges of PFAS into the air and water, cleaning up legacy PFAS pollution, and properly disposing of PFAS waste,” are essential.


Where Do PFAS Come From?

In order to understand Faber’s recommendations, it’s crucial to know where these forever chemicals come from and how they get into the water supply.

A field of Barley is being sprayed with pesticides by a large machine

Source: Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images

First, many PFAS are released from pesticide sprayed on farms, which then leaks into the country’s underground water sources. Second, airport and military bases use these chemicals, as well as manufacturing plants, landfills, and even in the products Americans use every day.


Non-Stick Pans, Fast Food Wrappers, and Cosmetics Are All Known to Contain PFAS

Sadly, it’s widely known that PFAS are present in several items that Americans use every day, such as cosmetics, popcorn bags, fast food wrappers, stain removers, and non-stick pans.

Couple cooking with a non-stick pan in their kitchen

Source: Freepik

Which means the average American isn’t just being poisoned by their water, but by their products as well.


PFAS Aren’t New News, But They’re Worse Than Ever Before

The idea that Americans’ water and even the products they purchase are completely contaminated with forever chemicals is actually not new information. The EPA, EWG, and other environmental organizations have known for years that this was going on.

Screenshot of an X post explaining the issues of contaminated tap water by PFAS

Source: @EarthJustice/X

However, thanks to social media and the ever-growing ability to share news, data, and prevalent information, Americans now know as well. And they are asking for a drastic change in the system.