Forever exposure, forever anxiety: Coping with the inescapable toxicity of PFAS

Nov 28, 2022

At the end of Joy Road in Fairfield, a steep dead-end road climbs a hillside to a scattering of homes with distant mountain views and some of the higher concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) the state has found to date in groundwater. The neighbors here live under what one resident, Nathan Saunders, called the “cloud of an unknown future,” fearing how PFAS exposure may erode their health. 

Saunders and his family have lived in their home for more than three decades, drinking the water and irrigating their gardens until a state test for PFAS two years ago revealed appalling levels of these industrial chemicals, which can damage immune systems and harm many organs. An engineer by profession, Saunders charts the monthly test results of the water before it enters the granular activated carbon filtration system the state installed. Over 21 months, the raw water has averaged 14,067 parts per trillion (ppt) of six PFAS compounds, just over 700 times the state’s interim drinking water standard of 20 ppt. 

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