The UK government is not testing drinking water for a group of toxic manmade chemicals linked to a range of diseases including cancers, while across the world people are falling sick and suing for hundreds of millions of dollars at a time after finding the substances in their tap water.
Known collectively as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), or “forever chemicals” because they are designed never to break down in the environment, the substances are used for their water- and grease-repellent properties in everything from:
- Firefighting foams
When PFAS, of which there are thousands, enter the environment, they accumulate in:
- Animal and human blood
Following a landmark legal case in the US made famous by the Mark Ruffalo film Dark Waters, a huge epidemiological study was carried out that linked PFAS to:
- High cholesterol
- Ulcerative colitis
- Thyroid disease
- Testicular cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
In England, the Environment Agency says PFAS is “everywhere in the environment”, particularly in its waters, making it unlikely that drinking water sources have escaped contamination. But unlike countries such as the US, where a nationwide testing scheme is under way, the UK government has so far only made plans to make plans to understand the levels of drinking water pollution.