PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. Some of the more common commercial applications have been for products like Teflon, stain & water–resistant materials, paints, polishes, fire fighting foams (a major source of ground water pollution near airports, military bases and fire fighting training centers). These chemicals are being detected at dangerous levels in drinking water supplies around the country. (For removal methods see section below, “Removal of PFAS”). Also, for an article we published in Water Technology Magazine on PFAS in water, see PFAS Water Tech Mag.
PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals have a long half-life in the environment and they can accumulate in the body over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. As a result, these chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States, but are still made in other countries and may be contained in products imported into the U.S.
HEALTH AFFECTS OF PFAS
There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. If humans or animals ingest it (by eating or drinking food or water), they are absorbed and can accumulate in the body. PFAS stay in the human body for long periods of time. As a result, as people get exposed from different sources over time, the level in their bodies may increase to the point where they suffer from adverse health effects.
Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animal studies. The most consistent findings from human epidemiology studies are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to infant birth weights and:
REMOVAL OF PFAS
There are technologies effective in removing PFAS from drinking water, especially Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluoro octane sulfonic acid (PFOS), which are the most studied of these chemicals. The most effective technologies include activated carbon adsorption and reverse osmosis. For activated carbon filtration that has been tested for the removal of PFAS from water as specified under NSF/ANSI 53, see the link at Activated Carbon PFAS Removal. This system will also remove lead and many other potential contaminants, as well as bad taste & odors in the water.
Reverse Osmosis, Point of Use System
This membrane based technology can be used at a point-of-use such as at a kitchen sink to feed a separate drinking water faucet as well as ice makers or refrigerator dispensers. This system can be installed under the kitchen sink or in the basement below, with a line run up to feed the separate faucet. For more on this technology, see http://reverse-osmosis.
For more on health related issues, see the link at https://www.epa.gov/pfas for more detailed information.