‘Forever Chemicals’ Contaminate Groundwater of Nearly 500,000 Texans Living Near 7 Military Sites
There is a group of dangerous contaminants that are called “forever chemicals” because they never break down and remain in the human body.
About 500,000 Texans living near seven military sites learned that the groundwater that many have used for decades to drink, cook and bathe is heavily polluted with these compounds, which are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), according to the Texas Observer.
Why are PFAS Chemicals So Dangerous?
Exposure to high levels of some PFAS may be hazardous to human health, the Environmental Protection Agency said. Scientific studies have shown that exposure may lead to:
- Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women.
- Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
- Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
- Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response.
- Interference with the body’s natural hormones.
- Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity.
PFAS include more than 5,000 chemicals, but two of the most common, PFOA and PFOS, are used to make nonstick pans, carpet and firefighting foam. PFAS have been manufactured since the 1940s and also can be found in stains, paints, cleaning products and food packaging. The government has acknowledged that PFAS have entered into the U.S. food supply.
The Biden administration recently announced efforts to help prevent PFAS from being released into the air, drinking systems, and food supply, and actions to expand cleanup efforts to remediate the impacts of the harmful pollutants.
The EPA said that current research has shown that people can be exposed to PFAS by working in occupations such as firefighting or chemicals manufacturing and processing; drinking water contaminated with PFAS; eating certain foods that may contain PFAS, including fish; swallowing contaminated soil or dust; breathing air containing PFAS, or using products made with PFAS or that are packaged in materials containing PFAS.
Texas Military Communities in Danger of Toxic Exposure
In some parts of Texas, PFAS water contamination appears to be severe, the Texas Observer reported. Near Lubbock, in communities surrounding the former Reese Air Force Base, 222 private water wells and three public wells had PFAS levels above the EPA’s recommended threshold of 70 parts per trillion. Residents suspect the pollution may have caused cancer and premature deaths in both humans and farm animals.
A Department of Defense official told the Texas Observer that PFAS have been detected in the Ogallala Aquifer, an important source of groundwater for Panhandle residents.
At former and active military bases near Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, firefighting foam has caused PFAS contamination levels thousands of times higher than what the CDC deems safe. About 471,000 people live within three miles of the sites, the Observer said.
How We Help Victims of Toxic Exposure
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