Seattle, WA – A new study by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) shows that perfluorinated chemicals used in many household products are making their way into Washington’s lakes and rivers. The study tested waterbodies and the effluent from wastewater treatment plants for perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS). The results demonstrate that new-generation PFAS chemicals are traveling from homes, through wastewater, and now dominate surface water discharges from municipal treatment plants.

Ecology’s study is available online: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/1703021.html

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFASs) are extraordinarily persistent, not known to degrade in the environment, and linked to cancer and reproductive problems. They are used in common products, including food packaging and stain and water resistant coatings on carpets, clothing and furniture, as well as some firefighting foams. In a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control, researchers found PFASs in the bodies of 95% of Americans tested. While older generation PFAS compounds have been phased out due to health concerns, newer, highly similar compounds have largely taken their place.

“The new study shows that the chemical industry’s switch to newer PFASs has failed to stop these chemicals from contaminating our environment. These chemicals are now widespread in lakes and rivers. There is a need for an urgent phaseout of these compounds to prevent further contamination of the environment and people,” said Erika Schreder, Science Director with Toxic-Free Future and a member of the state’s PFAS Chemical Action Plan Advisory Committee.

PFAS chemicals have also been detected in the drinking water of several Washington communities at levels that make the water unsafe to drink. In response, the Washington State Board of Health recently voted to develop drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals.

Ecology and the Department of Health are currently developing a state chemical action plan for PFAS chemicals. The plan will recommend measures for reducing sources and exposures of PFAS chemicals. The PFAS Chemical Action Plan Advisory Committee will meet next Wednesday, November 1st at Ecology’s Northwest Regional Headquarters in Bellevue, WA from 9-4.