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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of over 4,000 different man-made chemicals that include PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), GenX (trade name), and many others.  PFAS have been manufactured and used in a wide variety of industries around the world since the 1940s, including carpet, furniture, water-resistant outdoor gear, firefighting foam and non-stick cookware.

According to the US EPA, PFAS are found in:

  • Food, packaged in PFAS-containing material, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water;
  • Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellant fabrics, non-stick products (e.g. Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and firefighting foams;
  • Workplace, including production facilities or industries that use PFAS,
  • Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific source; and
  • Living organisms, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.

Why Are They Important?
Of these many different substances, PFOA and PFOS have been the most widely produced and studied.  These chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body, which means they don’t break down and they have the ability to accumulate over time. 

A Harvard University School of Public Health study indicates there is also evidence indicating exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects, including cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, and increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease.

Where Are We Now?
The EPA has closed the public comment period on a draft set of recommendations for addressing groundwater contaminated with PFOA and PFOS.  The draft guidance is based on the current understanding of PFAS toxicity and provides recommendations on screening levels and Preliminary Remediation Goals (PRGs) for PFOA and PFOS contamination of groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water.

The draft guidance recommends using 1) a screening level for PFOA or PFOS individually, which is currently 40 ng/L or parts per trillion (ppt) and 2) using the PFOA and PFOS Health Advisory of 70 ppt as the PRG for groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water, where no state or tribal MCL or other applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements (ARARs) exist.

What You Can Do to Avoid PFAS Chemicals
Reduce consumption of fast food and carry out foods. These foods often come in PFAs treated wrappers.

Be wary of all fabrics labeled “stain-resistant” or “water-resistant”.

Avoid PTFE-based non-stick pans and kitchen utensils.

Avoid consuming microwave popcorn. The bags are often coated with PFAS chemicals on the inside.

Skip optional stain-repellent on new carpets and furniture.

Choose personal care products without PTFE or Flouro ingredients.

If you have questions regarding PFAS or other environmental issues, please contact Susan Kite, PG at (678) 640-5268 or skite@ei1.com.