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‘Forever Chemicals’ May Have Polluted 20M Acres of US Cropland, Study Says

PFAS-tainted sewage sludge is used as fertilizer in fields and report finds that about 20m acres of cropland could be contaminated

About 20m acres of cropland in the United States may be contaminated from PFAS-tainted sewage sludge that has been used as fertilizer, a new report estimates.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 9,000 compounds used to make products heat-, water- or stain-resistant. Known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down, they have been linked to cancer, thyroid disruption, liver problems, birth defects, immunosuppression and more.

Dozens of industries use PFAS in thousands of consumer products, and often discharge the chemicals into the nation’s sewer system.

The analysis, conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), is an attempt to understand the scope of cropland contamination stemming from sewage sludge, or biosolids. Regulators don’t require sludge to be tested for PFAS or closely track where its spread, and public health advocates warn the practice is poisoning the nation’s food supply.