Sustainability Environment

‘Forever chemicals’ have scientists asking what’s in our drinking water

Finding lead or arsenic in your drinking water is alarming.  

Linda Birnbaum, whose many titles include scientist emeritus and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), wouldn’t dispute that. But she notes that people are at least testing for those pollutants. 

But a large group of synthetic substances, some known to be toxic—called ‘forever chemicals’ by activists because they tend to build up and stay in the environment—aren’t even being uniformly measured in drinking water, in part because many haven’t even been studied for health risks. 

As Birnbaum notes, the products that modern chemistry has brought into the world are often desirable, and in some cases irreplaceable.  

But she advocates that when it comes to some of the waste products from the industry, regulation might do well to exercise an abundance of caution. Manufacturers want a more targeted approach. 

So, when we ask what’s in the water, what should we be looking for?