Drinking water in several cities and regions in China contains high levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), according to a study published in Environmental Sciences Europe. The findings, from a team of researchers at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, suggest that elimination of these chemicals from drinking water in affected cities and regions in China is urgently needed and that PFAS released from industries and other sources need better control and reduction.
PFASs are a group of chemicals used to make coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, and grease, such as clothing, adhesives, food packaging, and heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces. They are highly durable and the widespread presence of PFASs in the environment and related exposures and adverse health effects such as impaired lipid metabolism, thyroid hormone levels and the immune system which have been shown in animals, have received increased attention in recent years. However, PFASs are not routinely monitored in drinking water in many parts of the world, including China.
To better understand the current status of PFAS contamination and the potential for human exposure, the researchers reviewed evidence from 30 available research studies on PFASs in Chinese drinking water, including 526 drinking water samples across 66 cities in China with a total of approximately 452 million inhabitants.
Dr. Jun Huang, the corresponding author said: “Although several PFASs especially perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), have been gradually phased out in North America and Europe since 2002, some Asian countries, especially China, still produce these chemicals. As a result, there is a potential risk of ground- and surface water contamination associated with PFAS being released into the environment. This raises concerns regarding the presence of PFASs in drinking water, direct exposure to humans and potential toxic effects.”
The authors found that populations in East China and the Southwest regions were at relatively higher risk from PFAS exposure, compared to other regions. Some cities in the Yangtze River basin such as Zigong, Jiujiang and Lianyungang exceeded health-based guidelines issued by EU and US agencies.
Zigong (502.9 ng/L), Lianyungang (332.6 ng/L), Changshu (122.4 ng/L), Chengdu (119.4 ng/L), Wuxi (93.6 ng/L) and Hangzhou (74.1 ng/L) were the cities with the highest PFAS concentrations in drinking water.