Drinking water supplies serving approximately six million Americans contain firefighting chemicals exceeding the maximum allowable limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states a new report.
Using water samples gathered by the EPA, researchers for the new study discovered firefighting foam chemicals popular during firefighter training operations. “During firefighting practice drills, large volumes of these chemicals wash into surface and ground waters and can end up in our drinking water," Arlene Blum, the study's co-author from the University of California Berkeley, told National Public Radio (NPR).
Certain versions of the firefighting chemicals barely surpassed EPA's maximum allowable limit while others were significantly higher, states the NPR report. Exposure to these chemicals, according to NPR, has been linked to cancer and hormonal changes.
While not focusing on home fires, the study does call to mind the way home fire sprinklers safeguard the environment from the debilitating effects of fire. The "Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers" report by FM Global and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition states that fewer persistent pollutants, such as heavy metals, and fewer solids were detected in wastewater samples from sprinklered homes during a fire. The wastewater from unsprinklered homes under fire "represents a serious environmental concern," stated the report.