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PFAS in dozens of Rhode Island drinking water systems above EPA standards

PROVIDENCE – About 30 additional public drinking water systems in Rhode Island may need to install systems to filter out so-called “forever chemicals” that have been linked to cancers and other health problems under new federal rules announced this week. 

The number comes on top of the 14 water systems in Rhode Island that are already working on treatment plans after tests of drinking water samples found levels of per- and polyfluorolalkyl substances, or PFAS, that exceeded a state standard passed into law two years ago, according to the state Department of Health. 

Water lines are installed in a neighborhood in Burrillville in 2019 after the town's drinking water was contaminated with PFAS from firefighting foam. [Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal, file]

What are ‘forever chemicals’?

The dangers of PFAS, which are used in everything from firefighting foam to cookware to coatings on rain jackets, have long been suspected. Recent studies have associated exposure to the substances with developmental delays in children, immune-system problems and kidney, testicular and prostate cancers. The chemicals, which get their “forever” moniker because they don’t break down in the environment, are known for tainting groundwater supplies, most commonly through the use of foams to control fires containing flammable liquids. 

Read More: PFAS in dozens of Rhode Island drinking water systems above EPA standards

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