Read the full article by London Gibson (Indianapolis Star)

“A family ofsynthetic chemicals, which for decades have been foundin everything from food packaging to stain-resistant carpetsand are associated with a list of health problems, have now been found in Indianapolis’ drinking water, a report says.

The long-lasting ‘forever chemicals’ also known as PFAS showed up in Indianapolis tap water at a level of 15 parts per trillion,according to a study bythe Environmental Working Group, a national research and advocacy organization.

This level is much lower than the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is 70 parts per trillion, but higher than standards set by researchers and various state governments.

So what does this all mean for our health? The answer is still taking shape, given that the thousands of chemicals under this umbrella are considered emerging contaminants and because of a lack of consensus about how much exposure people can tolerate.

Here is what we know about PFAS, in terms of their presence in Indianapolis’ water, how they became a part of everyday life, their potential health effects and what can been done to limit our exposure to them.

PFAS in Indianapolis

Recommended and enforced PFAS limits across the country run the gamut. 

California, for instance, requires notice for any drinking water with more than 5.1 to 6.5 parts per trillion of the two most-studied types of PFAS substances, and a Michigan state committee just approved standards ranging from 8 to 16 parts per trillion for the same chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group and a recent Harvard study argue these standards are still too high. Both suggest the limit should be closer to one part per trillion. This is roughly equivalent to one droplet within an Olympic swimming pool.

Of the cities and counties compared nationwide in the EWG report, Indianapolis’ rate of 15 parts per trillionwas about average — nearby cities such as Louisville and Columbus, Ohio, showed higher levels of PFAS contamination.

Even so, said EWG senior scientist David Andrews, Indianapolis’ water supply showed PFAS levels 15 times higher than the organization’s proposed limit.

‘This is information that really should have been made public years ago,’ Andrews said. ‘Studies of these chemicals have indicated … just an incredible array of health effects.’

Levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in tap water of Midwestern cities

A recent report from the Environmental Working Group tested drinking water in taps across 31 states in 2019 and found levels of PFAS substances, also known as ‘forever chemicals,’ in Midwestern cities.

The EPA’s standard for safe drinking water is anything lower than 70 parts per trillion. Researchers at EWG and Harvard disagree, however, and suggest a safe level is closer to one part per trillion.

What are PFAS chemicals?

The syntheticchemicals were first used in manufacturing in the 1940s and have reached ubiquity in recent decades.

Two of these chemicals, known as PFOS and PFOA, were famously used to make Scotchguard and the nonstick coating on Teflon cookware, sparking generations of products using similar materials. This compound has since been phased out.

Nevertheless, the materials that contain PFAS are widespread, found in products ranging from microwave popcorn bags to cleaning supplies…”