New data released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveals that at least 70 million Americans rely on water systems contaminated with toxic PFAS chemicals. These substances, known as “forever chemicals,” persist in the environment and pose serious health risks.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, are virtually indestructible chemicals used in various industries for decades. From firefighting foam to nonstick cookware, PFAS has seeped into our water systems, food, and everyday items.

Major cities like Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Madison, and Louisville are among those reporting PFAS contamination. The issue isn’t limited to big cities; water systems serving both large and small populations are affected.

The EPA’s ongoing review has already flagged over 1,200 systems with PFAS levels above reporting thresholds. With thousands more systems yet to be evaluated, the extent of contamination is likely to grow.

But what makes PFAS so concerning? Even at minuscule concentrations measured in parts per trillion, they pose health risks. PFAS exposure over time is linked to increased cancer risk and other serious health issues.

Despite the severity of the problem, there’s currently no enforceable national drinking water standard for PFAS in the United States. However, the EPA is expected to issue regulations this year, targeting the most toxic PFAS compounds.

Water utilities, responsible for public safety, are grappling with the challenge of treating PFAS-contaminated water. Installing advanced treatment systems comes with a hefty price tag, and not all utilities have the resources to do so.

In places like Sacramento and Salt Lake City, where water scarcity is a concern, PFAS contamination adds another layer of complexity. With groundwater sources compromised, these cities face challenges in ensuring water safety, especially during dry periods.

Even in U.S. territories like Guam, the PFAS threat looms large. With a significant portion of water supply wells exceeding proposed regulations, the financial burden of treatment falls heavily on consumers.