According to the U.S. Geological Survey, one or more forms of PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” associated with major health problems, are believed to be present in at least 45% of American tap water.

A new study suggests that “forever chemicals,” known to cause cancer, may be present in nearly half of the nation’s tap water.

According to a report published Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey, one or more forms of per and poly-fluoroalkyl compounds are present in at least 45% of American tap water.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are a class of approximately 14,000 man-made compounds that are “very persistent in the environment and the human body, meaning they don’t break down and can accumulate over time.”

The NIH refers to PFAS as “forever chemicals” because they can persist for years without decomposing and are connected to major health problems like cancer, prenatal difficulties, thyroid disease, liver disease, kidney disease, infertility, and autoimmune disorders.

According to the USGS, the study tested 716 locations across the US between 2016 and 2021 for PFAS in tap water from private and public water systems. 447 areas—rural and urban—rely on public water sources, while 269 rely on personal wells.

According to scientists, there is roughly a 75% likelihood that PFAS will be discovered in rural areas and a 25% possibility in urban ones. The Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central/Southern California regions were noted as high-exposure locations.

According to USGS research hydrologist Kelly Smalling, the report’s principal author, “USGS scientists tested water collected directly from people’s kitchen sinks across the nation, providing the most thorough study on PFAS in tap water from private wells and public supplies”.

According to the study, approximately half of the tap water in the United States may contain at least one form of PFAS out of those monitored. Additionally, PFAS concentrations in both public and private wells were comparable.

While homeowners maintain, test, and treat private water supplies, the EPA oversees public water supplies. Testing is the only way to confirm the presence of PFAS in wells. Thus anyone interested in testing and treating private wells should get advice from their local and state authority.

According to Smalling, if the typical American is concerned about the quality of their drinking water, they can utilize this and other research to learn more, assess their own [personal] risk, and contact their local health officials about testing or treatment.