Chemical contamination in Australian drinking water

Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discussed the potential health effects of PFASs in drinking water in an October 9, 2017 interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC-TV) Four Corners program. The show explored possible causes and the impact on people when drinking water and water used for crops became contaminated with the chemicals in several Australian communities located near military bases.

“We’re concerned about the long term adverse effects on human health,” said Grandjean, who has conducted PFAS studies. “They barely can be broken down in the environment [and] they stay in the human body for many, many years.”

PFASs have been used over the past 60 years in industrial and commercial products ranging from food wrappers to clothing to pots and pans. They have been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, and obesity. Although several major manufacturers have discontinued the use of some PFASs, the chemicals continue to persist in people and wildlife. Drinking water is one of the main routes through which people can be exposed.

Watch the program and read the transcript. (Grandjean’s part begins about nine minutes into the show.)

Learn more

Unsafe levels of toxic chemicals found in drinking water for six million Americans
(Harvard Chan School news)

Breastfeeding may expose infants to toxic chemicals
(Harvard Chan School press release)

Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children
(Harvard Chan School press release)

Chemical Exposures and the Brain: The Flint Water Crisis and More (The Harvard Chan School Forum)