Are YOU living in a secret forever chemical hotspot? Interactive map shows parts of US where cancer-causing PFAS toxins are most common in drinking water – after Biden’s new ban

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • More than 70million Americans live in homes with PFAS-contaminated water
  • PFAS have been linked to cancers, fertility complications, hormone disruption and liver damage
  • READ MORE: How cancer-causing chemicals found in food packaging have seeped their way into animals


Biden today announced a crackdown on forever chemicals in American drinking water that will force utility companies and local governments to strip the toxins from tap supplies.

More than 70million Americans live in homes with water contaminated by the substances and the government estimates half of the country’s water sources contains high levels of them.

Campaigners have been calling for the substances to be removed from water because a growing body of research links them to cancers, infertility and a host of other health conditions – including autism.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handed down mandates this week that would require six substances among the group known as PFAS chemicals to drop to near-zero levels in tap water.

They have been hailed as ‘life-changing’ and ‘historic’ and are now the first-ever national regulations governing these kinds of chemicals.


The Environmental Working Group, an activist organization centered on environmental pollutants, mapped out the communities and military sites confirmed to have PFAS contamination  

PFAS are microscopic substances that take thousands of years to break down in the environment or human body, earning them the name ‘forever chemicals.’ 

Their main purpose is to repel water and oil, which is what makes non-stick cookware easier to clean and why certain jackets and tents can withstand rain.

The chemicals can seep into the water supply from washing dishes and can enter food if packaging is made to be grease-resistant or if the non-stick coating on pots and pans begins to deteriorate.

PFAS are also common in pesticides used to feed crops, which produces chemical-rich runoff that can enter the drinking water supply. There is no level of safe exposure to the chemicals. 

A 2023 EPA report found 45 percent of drinking water sources contained at least one PFAS – with highest concentrations in the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and Central/Southern California. 

The testing was limited to 32 types of PFAS out of more than 12,000 that exist, meaning thousands of the chemicals could have gone undetected. 

If that’s the case, it may indicate the problem is even larger than the study conveys. 

Environmental Working Group (EWG) data from 2020 ranked Brunswick County, North Carolina, as the top region in the US with PFAS in drinking water

Environmental Working Group (EWG) data from 2020 ranked Brunswick County, North Carolina, as the top region in the US with PFAS in drinking water

The cities depicted on the map are just a handful of many that have been identified as having higher concentrations of PFAS in the public water supply and private wells

The cities depicted on the map are just a handful of many that have been identified as having higher concentrations of PFAS in the public water supply and private wells        

Most of the contamination was concentrated in densely populated urban areas, which the researchers concluded was due to increased industry and a greater number of waste sites overall, including manufacturing plants and landfills, which are known to generate PFAS. 

A previous analysis by found cities with the highest levels of toxic forever chemicals in tap water also had above-average rates of disease and pregnancy complications.

The majority of neighborhoods with the highest levels of PFAS chemicals in drinking water suffer more cancer diagnoses and deaths than the rest of the country each year and see more babies born at dangerously low weights.

The ten worst cities for PFAS in drinking water 

Concentrations are measured in parts per trillion (PPT) 

  1. Brunswick County, N.C. at 185.9ppt
  2. Quad Cities, Iowa at 109.8ppt
  3. Miami, Fla. at 56.7ppt
  4. Bergen County, N.J. at 51.4ppt
  5. Wilmington, N.C. at 50.5ppt
  6. Philadelphia, Pa. at 46.3ppt 
  7. Louisville, Ky. at 45.2ppt
  8. New Orleans, La. at 41.8ppt
  9. Charleston, S.C. at 33.3ppt
  10. Decatur, Ala. at 24.1ppt

Information courtesy of a separate report by the Environmental Working Group 


The average yearly rate of new cancer diagnoses in America every year is about 439 cases per 100,000 people, but seven out of the 10 top-scoring counties for PFAS contamination saw their rates exceed the national benchmark.

Cancer deaths were also higher in seven of the worst-hit neighborhoods, while six of the areas had higher rates of low birth weight than the national average. 

The analysis looked at the 10 cities and counties identified in a report by the Environmental Working Group as having the highest level of PFAS in drinking water.

They were: Brunswick County, NC; Quad Cities, Iowa; Miami, FL.; Bergen County, NJ; Wilmington, NC; Philadelphia, PA.; Louisville, KY; New Orleans, LA; Charleston, SC; and Decatur, AL.

A slew of studies have found associations between PFAS and high cholesterol, liver damage, low birth rate, childhood obesity, hormone disruption, thyroid problems, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cancer risk and harm to reproductive health and fertility.  

The EPA’s rules will now require public water utilities to test for six different types of PFAS. 

To help municipalities reach the near-zero goal, the agency will provide $1billion to states to implement testing and water treatment at public water systems. 

In a statement announcing its ruling, the EPA said the move could prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands serious illnesses. 

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said: ‘Drinking water contaminated with PFAS has plagued communities across this country for too long.’

He added: ‘Our PFAS Strategic Roadmap marshals the full breadth of EPA’s authority and resources to protect people from these harmful forever chemicals. Today, I am proud to finalize this critical piece of our Roadmap, and in doing so, save thousands of lives and help ensure our children grow up healthier.’



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