That is, until Wednesday. Amid a media firestorm about the administration’s immigration policy, the ATSDR—a division of the Department of Health and Human Services—quietly published its 852-page review of perfluoroalkyls, or PFAS, which are “used in everything from carpets and frying pan coatings to military firefighting foams,” according to ProPublica. “All told, the report offers the most comprehensive gathering of information on the effects of these chemicals today, and suggests they’re far more dangerous than previously thought.”These chemical compounds pose health risks to millions of Americans. They’re in roughly 1 percent of the nation’s public water supply, according to the EPA; in roughly 1,500 drinking water systems across the country, according to the Environmental Working Group. People who drink from these systems, even if their exposure to PFAS is low, now have a potentially increased risk of cancer; of disruptions in hormones and the immune system; and of complications with fetal development during pregnancy.But military personnel and veterans are particularly at risk, because PFAS compounds are in firefighting foams, which have been used in training exercises at military bases across America since the 1970s. Those foams have leached into the groundwater at the military facilities, and often the drinking water supply. Nearly three million Americans get their drinking water from Department of Defense systems.The DOD has reported widespread contamination at its bases and posts, as well as their surrounding areas. In a March report to the House Armed Services Committee, the department provided a list of 126 military facilities where nearby water supplies contained PFAS levels above the EPA’s standard, and 36 bases with drinking water contamination on site. “In all, 25 Army bases; 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy or Marine Corps bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites have tested at higher than acceptable levels for the compounds in either their drinking water or groundwater sources,” the Military Times reported.
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