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Bergen's Tap Water Ranks 4th For Toxins In U.S., But Read This Before You Panic

New Jersey has a high concentration of chemicals in the drinking water, sure. But experts say it's because we're looking for those chemicals, while most other states are not. If they did, they may look just as bad.
New Jersey has a high concentration of chemicals in the drinking water, sure. But experts say it's because we're looking for those chemicals, while most other states are not. If they did, they may look just as bad. Photo Credit: Environmental Working Group

The toxins are ubiquitous. They could be harmful. But New Jersey isn't the only state flooded with them, experts say.

A sample of Bergen County's tap water (taken from Bergenfield last August) contained the fourth highest concentration of an increasingly-common group of toxins in the U.S., according to a series of lab tests by the Environmental Working Group.

The EWG for the first time found the chemicals known as "PFAS" in the drinking water of dozens of U.S. cities, confirming that the number of Americans exposed to the chemicals by way of their drinking water "has been dramatically underestimated," the group said.

The difference is that some states and water companies are looking for the toxins, while others are not, EWG analyst and report author Sydney Evans said.

"If you sample, you will find it."

Environmental Working Group

"You see states like Michigan and New Jersey and think it's really bad, but those are the states that are actually looking for these chemicals," Evans told NorthJersey.com. "If other states did the same, you would have many more that would look similar to New Jersey and Michigan."

According to The Groundwater Foundation , these are the most important tests in determining the health and safety of your drinking water:

  • Basic water potability
  • Coliform bacteria
  • Nitrate
  • Ions
  • Sulfate
  • Fluoride
  • Total dissolved solids

That's not to say testing for PFAS is unimportant.

PFAS are known as "forever chemicals" because once they're released into the environment, they do not break down, the EWG said. They've been linked to cancer, could be harmful to the developing fetus and may also reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, the group said.

They've been increasingly prevalent in everyday consumer products such as paints, non-stick pans and cleaning products since the 1940s -- and tests indicate that they're ubiquitous in U.S. drinking water.

Bergen County's PFAS level is fourth highest in the samples that EWG looked at from 31 states and D.C.

Environmental Working Group

"Some states, including New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California, have conducted additional sampling and made the results public," the EWG said. "And some local communities, including Ann Arbor, Mich., and Wilmington, N.C., regularly test for PFAS and release the results."

While the PFAS levels in Bergen County did not exceed federal health standard for drinking water, they did rank fourth highest out of all the samples taken nationwide.

The EWG recommends a reverse osmosis system that combines an activated carbon filter with a reverse osmosis membrane for in-home treatment of PFAS-tainted tap water.

A Fair Lawn couple is working with water solution company Aquatal, offering water filtration products like the one described above. Click here for Daily Voice's story on Aquatal.

Click here for the full EWG report and here for more from NorthJersey.com.

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