Hollywood seems to love a good David versus corporate Goliath tale, and the stories it brings to the silver screen not infrequently revolve around real-life contamination of community water.
Twenty years ago, the film Erin Brockovich called attention to a cancer-causing chemical dumped in a California community by Pacific Gas & Electric, while the recent film Dark Waters focuses on DuPont’s contamination of a West Virginia town’s water with the chemical PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). Outside of Tinseltown, occurrences such as the 2014 lead debacle in Flint, Michigan—and especially its dramatic impact on children’s cognition and behavior—have helped ensure that water-quality-related incidents continue to get occasional media attention.
PFOA belongs to a wider family of chemicals called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The scientific evidence clearly indicates that drinking water contaminants such as PFAS, lead and many others—as well as the fluoride that, incredibly, is intentionally added to drinking water—are not doing anyone any good. However, these exposures are of particular concern for children. This is because growing children drink more water than adults (per pound of body weight) and are exquisitely vulnerable to adverse developmental effects. As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) points out, “A baby fed exclusively powdered formula mixed with tap water drinks the most water for its small size of any age group”; in this scenario, tap water may represent up to 85% of a formula-fed baby’s diet.