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Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy
Recent testing requirements in the State of Massachusetts have forced local governments to take a closer look at the safety of their drinking water. These new requirements have revealed that Easton, Massachusetts, has elevated levels of PFAS in their tap water. This article will address what PFAS compounds are, the levels in Easton drinking water, and water filtration brands that actually remove them.
PFAS in Easton, Massachusetts
The City of Easton, Massachusetts recently reported that PFAS are present in the city’s drinking water supply. State-level regulations of PFAS chemicals are relatively new, particularly in Massachusetts. Municipal water supplies were not required to even test for PFAS compounds until January 2021, when the state implemented these requirements. Up until that point, people in Easton and many other municipalities in Massachusetts did not know they were being exposed to this potentially cancer-causing chemical.
In October, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection set an enforceable standard of 20 parts per trillion for the sum of six PFAS compounds in drinking water. The six compounds, called PFAS6, are: PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA. This regulation means that if a water sample exceeds 20 parts per trillion for all six compounds, that the municipal provider is in violation of the state law. The table below shows elevated levels of PFAS in Easton source water. A more detailed and thorough analysis of these results can be found on the Easton, MA, website dedicated to PFAS testing.
What Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances?
Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of harmful compounds that can be found in drinking water sources across the country. PFAS can take hundreds of years to degrade in the environment which is why you may see them referred to as ‘forever chemicals.’ PFAS are not currently regulated at the federal level, but some states have created regulations or monitoring criteria, including Massachusetts. They are known to increase the risk of cancer, increase cholesterol, increase the risk of miscarriage by 80-120%, and several other negative health outcomes. According to the National Institute of Health, over 4,700 different PFAS variations have been used in some type of manufacturing since the 1950’s.
Is 20 ppt Safe?
There’s a bit of uncertainty around the “safe level” of exposure to PFAS compounds. There are only a handful of studies that assess associated health impacts, and most agree that more research is necessary to make a determination. In 2016, EPA set a non-enforceable Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for combined PFOA and PFOS. More recent data suggests that this level is far to high to provide meaningful protection against a range of negative health impacts. A recent study also found that a “safe level” or PFAS could be as low as 0.1 parts per trillion. Although the Massachusetts PFAS standard is on the lower end of state limits, our team would rather see even less PFAS allowed in municipal tap water.
Not All Water Filters Remove PFAS
If you live in Easton and you’re looking for a solution, it’s important to understand that not all water filters are able to remove PFAS chemicals. Duke University completed a study in 2020 that tested various filtration brands and their ability to remove PFAS from drinking water. The results found that popular brands including Brita and Pur did not do a good job of removing PFAS compounds. Refrigerator filters tested by the Duke research team, including; Samsung, Whirlpool, and GE, also failed to remove PFAS. The full results of this study can be found here. Hydroviv filters are both NSF certified and third-party tested to remove PFAS chemicals. To request our full testing and removal data, please email email@example.com.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Eric Roy, Ph.D.
Duke University and NC State researchers recently published a study that examined the effectiveness of residential water filters against PFAS. We believe that this study is extremely important because PFAS are toxic and unregulated, which means that individuals shoulder the burden to remove them from drinking water. While we were excited to be part of this study, Hydroviv is NOT endorsed in any way by Duke University, NC State, or any of the researchers, nor did we pay any money to be part of the study.
How Effective Were Hydroviv Water Filters in Removing PFAS?
Five Hydroviv filters were tested as part of this study, four of which use currently-available active media blends. For these core formulations, the researchers tested two Under Sink Filters that connect directly to the faucet and two Refrigerator Line filters that connect to the water line that feeds the refrigerator. In all four cases, any water with PFAS present in the unfiltered samples had undetectable (below the Method Detection Limit (<MDL)) levels of PFAS after the water was filtered through a Hydroviv filter (blue text in the table below). The results here are consistent with an earlier test report that looked at PFAS removal rates. We assembled the relevant data from the more recent study for our filters in the table below.
How Did Other Common Whole House, Pitcher, and Refrigerator Filters Perform?
Unfortunately, some of the most popular pitcher, refrigerator, and whole house filters did not perform well. Alarmingly, some systems by Berkey, Aquasana, Samsung, GE, and Brita, actually had HIGHER PFAS LEVELS in the filtered water than the unfiltered sample, because of over-saturation and low quality filtration media. The red text in the table below shows detectable PFAS levels in water filtered by other major brands.
How Did Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Perform?
This study evaluated a number of quality water filters that use reverse osmosis (RO) technology. In each of the RO systems that were tested, any water with PFAS present in the unfiltered sample also had undetectable levels in the filtrate.
If You’re Considering Purchasing a Water Filter That Was Not Part of this Study
The advice we give people looking for a water filter that removes PFAS is to ask the manufacturer for 3rd party test data for PFAS removal (not just PFOA/PFOS) at the beginning and end of the filter’s advertised lifetime. Unfortunately, there are a lot of water filter brands (including filters that performed horribly in this study) that show test data that were conducted when the filter cartridges were fresh, and do not show PFAS test data for the end of the advertised filter life (which they base off chlorine removal). Fortunately, Hydroviv’s Under Sink and Refrigerator Line Filters were tested at month 1 and month 6 as part of this study, as well as the filters that were tested as part of the NC State/CFPUA study several years ago.