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National study finds up to nine PFAS in FL’s tap water


Tap water in Gainesville, Tampa Bay, and Fort Myers contains chemicals that don’t break down in the environment or in human bodies, according to a study from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Between 2016 and 2021, researchers tested private wells and public water sources all over the country, according to the study published on Wednesday. In Florida, in public water sources they found detectable amounts of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These “forever chemicals” are used to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. However, almost half of the tap water in the country — from both private wells and public sources — carries PFAS.

Map showing the number of individual PFAS found in the study published on July 5. Graphic: U.S. Geological Survey

Current understanding of these chemicals suggest they are linked to health problems including cancer, developmental delays in children, weakened immune systems, obesity, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, decreased fertility, and liver damage, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Gainesville yielded the worst results in the study. There, researchers found between seven and nine PFAS out of the 32 compounds they tested for. Three samples from Tampa Bay and Fort Myers had detectable traces of up to three kinds of PFAS. Even though researchers did not detect PFAS in the samples from Tallahassee and Jacksonville, that does not mean those areas don’t contain them, according to the study.

Studies of this magnitude are a step in the right direction, said Stel Bailey, chief executive director of the nonprofit against toxic waste Fight for Zero.

“I think we need to get a lot more data than what we’re seeing, but it’s not surprising,” she said. “It’s a devastating effect of polluting industries that have gone unregulated for far too long, and, if anything, this study should really waken up our leaders.”

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection did not provide comment for this story.

Tap Water, Florida, Florida Phoenix, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Geological Survey