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Study finds low levels of chemicals in one in three US water utilities

December 10, 2013
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Potentially dangerous chemicals were detected in more than one in three water utilities that were monitored for a new study carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study included 25 water utilities that voluntarily provided single samples of both treated and untreated water. In total, 21 contaminants were detected in treated water from at least nine utilities, with the majority of them found at very low concentration level. Of these contaminants, 18 were not regulated under federal laws, so utilities are not required to monitor for them. However, four of the chemicals were included in the EPA list of chemicals under consideration for federal standards, reports said.

Researcher Dana Kolpin, a hydrologist with the USGS, commented that although the concentration levels of these chemicals was very low, there is no data about the possible long-term effect of exposure to low levels over prolonged periods of time.

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One of the detected chemicals was a perfluorinated compound, known as PFOA, which has been associated with a series of adverse health effects, such as cancer, in communities living close to a chemical plant in West Virginia where the water is contaminated.

Leader of the study, EPA research chemist Susan Glassmeyer, noted that the examined utilities differed in size and in geographical location and used different water treatment methods.

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