PFAS Contamination In the U.S.

Mapping the PFAS Contamination Crisis: New Data Show 610 Sites in 43 States


The known extent of contamination of American communities with the highly toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS continues to grow at an alarming rate. As of March 2019, 610 locations in 43 states are now known to be affected, including drinking water systems serving an estimated 19 million people.

The latest update of an interactive map by EWG and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, at Northeastern University, documents publicly known PFAS pollution in public water systems and military bases, airports, industrial plants and dumps, and firefighter training sites. (Details on our sources and methodology are here.)

PFAS compounds are a family of thousands of chemicals used in a wide array of consumer and industrial applications – nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, grease-resistant food packaging, firefighting foam and many more. Studies link very low concentrations of some PFAS chemicals to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity and other health problems. PFAS chemicals pollute the blood of virtually all Americans, including newborn babies, and they persist forever in the environment.

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The EPA has known of PFAS’ health hazards for two decades but has failed to set an enforceable legal limit for drinking water or standards for cleanup of contaminated sites. The agency recently released a so-called PFAS action plan, but it is woefully inadequate. The EPA plan will not stop the introduction of new PFAS chemicals, end the use of PFAS in everyday products, alert Americans to the risk of PFAS pollution or clean up contaminated drinking water supplies. (See the complete list of EWG’s recommendations for federal action on PFAS.)

A bipartisan PFAS task force has been formed in Congress. Several PFAS bills have been introduced, including legislation to force the EPA to set a legal limit for all PFAS in drinking water, and to add PFAS to chemicals covered by the Superfund cleanup law.

In the absence of EPA action, states are taking the lead. A number of states have set legal limits or health-based guidelines for PFAS chemicals that are much lower than the EPA’s non-binding advisory level of 70 parts per trillion, or ppt, for PFOA, PFOS or both chemicals combined. Drawing on the best available research, EWG scientists recommend a drinking water standard of 1 ppt for any individual PFAS chemical, or the combined level of all PFAS chemicals.

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