Here's what you can (and can't) do about PFAS contamination in your water
Toxic chemicals linked to cancer have been found in dozens of California water systems. Here are some often-asked questions residents have about how to limit their exposure and reduce the level of PFAS in their tap water.Times reported last week that nearly 300 drinking water wells and other water sources in California had been contaminated with toxic chemicals linked to cancer, readers wanted to know what they could do. For many, it was the first time they had read about this class of chemicals, called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — or PFAS. We talked to industry experts, and the following are their best answers to some of the most often-asked questions we received. Will the water filter pitcher I have in my fridge remove PFAS? If only it were that easy. Common water pitcher brands like Brita and Pur are perfectly fine if you want to reduce bad-tasting chlorine and contaminants like heavy metals. But they weren’t designed to remove PFAS or even reduce their concentration in your tap water. NSF International, a group that tests and certifies water filtration systems, lists 77 products that can reduce PFAS to below the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory level. Some of them function like pitchers — you fill them manually and they don’t have to be installed under your sink — but they do have to be docked into a filtration system that sits on your counter and has to be plugged in. They cost about $100-$150. Advertisement What type of home filtration system is best? According to the Environmental Working Group , or EWG, a public health advocacy organization that has called for more regulation of PFAS, the gold standard for in-house filtration is a reverse osmosis filter, commonly called RO. Reverse osmosis filters work by forcing water through a membrane that traps contaminants. These filters are considered the most effective, but they produce large amounts of wastewater — about three times as much water as they treat. Ranging from $200 to $1,800, a reverse osmosis system is typically the most expensive option and may require a professional plumber to install it under the sink. The second best option is an activated carbon filter, which also goes under the sink. These systems are less expensive than reverse osmosis and their cartridges are often cheaper to replace. Advertisement EWG doesn’t endorse any particular brand and NSF International gives you 10 different manufacturers to choose from. There are several caveats to these recommendations. First, the federal government does not regulate PFAS and there is no agreed-upon safe level for drinking water. Though NSF-certified filters are proven to reduce contaminant levels below the EPA guideline, there’s debate among scientists and public health advocates about whether the federal government’s advisory level is too high. For example, New Hampshire has the strictest PFAS standards in the country, which are significantly lower than the EPA’s level. Whether a home filtration system can meet these tighter standards is unclear. Also, NSF certifies products to remove the two most common variants in the PFAS class — PFOA and PFOS — but there are thousands more. It’s unknown how effective water filters are on the second generation of PFAS. Read more: Los Angeles Times
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