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Chemicals in drinking water


Board of Supervisors sound alarm

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is making waves with regard to drinking water safety and cleanliness. As of last week, the Board implemented a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn to investigate the levels of toxic polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAs better known as forever chemicals) in drinking water locally, (here in Los Angeles County). This proposal comes after a nationwide survey released regarding finding the forever chemicals in 45% of the nation’s drinking water and identifies Southern California as an area where it is extremely prevalent.

“These forever chemicals don’t naturally break down in the environment and can build up in our bodies and cause serious health problems,” said Supervisor Hahn. “We need to know whether they are in our drinking water and at what concentrations so we can start putting together a plan to get them out.”

PFAs have been in existence since the 1940s and are a class that consists of man-made chemicals. PFAs can be found in firefighting foam, stain resistant fabric, and nonstick cookware. All PFAs can be found in our natural environment although they aren’t largely used in the United States. Further studies have shown a connection between these forever chemicals to serious health problems such as decreased fertility, increased risk of high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, specific cancers, and liver and immune-system damage.

Supervisor Hahn’s motion was unanimously approved with plans to relentlessly investigate forever chemicals that remain in drinking water. The first request administered from the motion is to request a report back from Public Health, Public Works, and the Chief Sustainability Office in 90 days.

The report will have information regarding which of the 206 water systems are testing for PFAS. Additionally, it will include which chemicals and more options for helping water districts to conduct more tests and identify more state and federal funding sources to support further tests. Lastly, it will request a much more extensive report in three months with an analysis of California’s current PFAS regulations, and gaps in the proposed regulations, and if they properly address the concerns of the communities in Los Angeles.