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NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) – More than 6 million Americans are drinking water laced with unsafe levels of chemicals linked with cancer and other illnesses, a new report indicates.

Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences found that levels of a certain class of chemicals — called polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs — are above what’s recommended by the federal government in many public drinking water sources.

Study author Xindi Hu told CBS News, “We are interested in this group of compounds — PFASs — because they’re widely used in a lot of applications.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFASs are used in a broad range of consumer goods, such as cleaners, textiles, leather, paper and paints, fire-fighting foams, and wire insulation.

Food packaging is another source of PFASs, said Hu, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and Environmental Science and Engineering at SEAS.

She and colleagues compiled and analyzed national data from the EPA, looking at concentrations of six types of PFASs from more than 36,000 drinking water samples collected between 2013-2015.

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