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PFAs in drinking water not routinely tested

Toxic PFAS levels in UK drinking water untested by authorities.

UK government fails to test levels of thousands of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in tap water. Here’s how you can protect yourself.

Nicknamed ‘forever chemicals’ because they never break down, Poly and Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances – PFAS or PFASs for short – accumulate in water, soil, animals and humans. We’re exposed to these toxic chemicals in a variety of ways, including the products we use. However, our biggest exposure by far is acknowledged to be drinking water.

Drinking water is recognised as one of the main sources of our exposure to PFAS.

Dr Julie Schneider, Chem Trust, quoted in Salvidge, 25.03.21 
Woman holds glass of tap water, which may contain PFAS.
Our biggest exposure to PFAS is drinking water.

Keep reading to learn more about this issue, including the health problems associated with PFAS. You’ll also discover how to protect yourself from these substances.

What are Poly and Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances?

They’re a large group of synthetic chemical compounds with grease- and water-repelling properties. Around the world, companies use PFAS to manufacture a range of consumer products. These include non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, dental floss, carpets and food packaging. They’re also used to make industrial products such as firefighting foams (Zanolli).

First made in the 1940s, estimates of the number of different PFAS used around the world today vary from 4,700 to over 8,000 (Wikipedia).

Do ‘forever chemicals’ harm human health? 

Studies link exposure to a variety of health problems. These range from those affecting pregnancy, fertility, sexual development and menopause; to immune problems including ulcerative colitis and reduced response to tetanus vaccination. Kidney, liver and testicular cancers have also been linked to PFAS. So have high cholesterol and thyroid disease (Salvidge).

Is this a UK or global problem? 

PFAS contamination is so widespread that:

it is estimated that almost everyone in the world now has PFAS in their blood.

Salvidge, 25.03.21 

Here in the UK, the Environment Agency admits that PFAS are “ubiquitous in the environment” (Salvidge). 

Cambridgeshire Water admits it had to turn off a water supply when it found the aquifer had 4 times the legal maximum limits of a PFAS chemical. Worryingly, it did not inform residents at the time of their exposure. Nor did the utility tell them how long the exposure lasted (Times).

Australians in towns next to airbases using PFAS-based firefighting foam were told not to drink their tap water or use supplies from groundwater bores (Daly).

Futhermore, multiple class actions are being brought against companies in the USA over contamination of drinking water by PFAS. In Italy, it’s estimated that 350,000 residents in Veneto were affected when a chemical plant allegedly discharged PFAS and polluted drinking water (Marsi). 

Sadly, PFAS even contaminate the Arctic and the world’s oceans. 

PFAS are not removed by public water treatment processes.
PFAS are not removed during public water treatment processes.

Why are PFAS allowed in tap water? And why aren’t they filtered out? 

Water utility companies do not routinely test for all PFAS. In England and Wales, they are only required to risk-asses two (the restricted PFOS and PFOA), and in Scotland only one (PFOA). The UK regulatory body, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, has set a limit of 10 nanograms per litre for only those two restricted PFAS. Remember, there are at least 4,000 different ‘forever chemicals’ of this type.

As the Drinking Water Inspectorate states: 

Limited data were identified in the UK regarding the presence of PFASs in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, wastewater and landfill leachate.

Drinking Water Inspectorate, 15.12.20

Furthermore, the water filtration processes needed to remove PFAS from drinking water are not used at water treatment plants. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case with contaminants in drinking water:

With respect to the removal of PFASs by drinking water treatment processes, the literature suggests that conventional treatment is not particularly effective at removing PFASs from water.

Drinking Water Inspectorate, 15.12.20

The UK government has only recently made plans to “better assess their presence in our natural environment and their sources” (Salvidge). And it has not made any commitments to restricting or banning their use. Nor to lower the levels permitted in tap water. Whereas EU countries are discussing whether to ban all non-essential use of PFAS. 

How can I reduce my exposure to PFAS? 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that bottled water might be the answer to avoiding PFAS. Not to mention all the other contaminants and impurities found in tap water (pesticides, fertilisers, heavy metals and microplastics, to name but a few).

Unfortunately, we know that bottled waters can be as compromised by human-made contaminants as tap water, for example microplastics. And of course, buying bottled water contributes to the environmental problems of plastics use and pollution.

Comparison of Tap Filtered, Bottled and reverse osmosis Pure Water
PureH2O water is purer than all bottled waters.


But all is not lost, as Roger Wiltshire, M.D. of PureH2O Ltd reflects: 

Water utilities do as good a job as can be expected, given the volume of water they have to process and the fact that 99% of it is used for washing purposes. 

It stands to reason that the 1% of water we actually drink is far more important – so it should be treated at the point of use to ensure total purity.

Roger Wiltshire, PureH2O Ltd

In other words, we need to treat our water where we turn on the tap and fill our glass or kettle. This could be at home, in the cafes and restaurants you visit and also your place of work.

The role of Reverse Osmosis water purifiers.

Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure the quality and safety of your drinking water. If you have a reverse osmosis (RO) water purifier like the PurityPRO, that is. As Roger explains:

Pollutants including PFAS are effectively removed by the PurityPRO process. PurityPRO is the most advanced water purifier on the market and the first major development in RO systems in 40 years.

Roger Wiltshire, PureH2O Ltd

A PurityPRO home water purifier fits in a standard kitchen cupboard, usually the one under your kitchen sink.

PFAS effectively removed by PurityPRO reverse osmosis home water purifier
PurityPRO water purifiers effectively remove PFAS

In conclusion:

Whatever worrying information makes the news headlines, a reverse osmosis home water purifier means you can relax. You don’t need to wait for government regulations and public water treatment processes to change. However, you can take action to protect your family from the health problems associated with PFAS – and other contaminants – in UK tap water.

Back to Roger:

PureH2O is purer than all bottled water, tastes amazing and makes the best cup of tea on the planet.

Roger Wiltshire, PureH2O Ltd

We can all drink to that.

Order your PurityPRO today.

If you’d like to learn more, click here to view our home water purifiers, or here for our workplace options. Order by calling us on 01483 617000, emailing or fill out our contact form if you prefer.


Drinking Water Inspectorate ‘Poly and Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances in Drinking Water’ 15.12.20 accessed 01.04.21

Daly, T ‘$212m PFAS payout for property value loss and distress, but residents’ contamination fears linger’ ABC News 09.03.21 accessed 01.04.21

Marsi, F ‘Forever Chemicals’ come under fire in Italy’ Politico 03.12.20 accessed 01.04.21

Naish, J The toxic ‘forever chemicals’ that could be lurking in our home’ The Times 27.09.22 accessed 28.09.22

Salvidge, R ‘UK Flying Blind on Levels of Toxic Chemicals in Tap Water’ Guardian 25.03.21 accessed 01.04.21

Wikipedia ‘Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances’ accessed 01.04.21

Zanolli, L ‘Why you need to know about PFAS, the chemicals in pizza boxes and rainwear’ Guardian 23.05.19 accessed 01.04.21


PureH2O Ltd manufactures, installs and maintains the world’s most innovative water purification systems and the most technologically advanced boiling, chilled and sparkling water taps. Since 1991 we have been committed to providing our domestic and commercial customers with the purest, safest, most sustainable choice of drinking water, which helps them reduce their environmental impact by avoiding single-use plastic bottled water.

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