What is PFAS?

PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl substances and is a general term used to describe a larger family of man-made perfluorochemicals (PFC’s). Out of the larger group of PFAS chemicals are two specific chemicals known as Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), which are known to have the most adverse health effects and environmental impact. When referring to PFAS, generally it is these two chemicals that are being referenced.

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What are PFOA and PFOS used for and where can they be found?

PFOA and PFOS have been in use since the early 1940s in a wide range of commercial products and industrial purposes. PFAS chemicals have been found in the air, soil, water, food, and in many household items.

Drinking Water: in public drinking water systems and private wells

Food: fish caught from contaminated waters and dairy products from livestock

Soil and waterways near waste sites: landfills, disposal sites, hazardous waste sites, and superfund sites

Fire extinguishing foam: in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) used to extinguish flammable liquid-based fires; These foams are typically used in firefighting training and emergency response situations at airports, military bases, chemical plants, refineries, and shipyards.

Manufacturing: chrome plating, electronics (semiconductors), paper mills, and textiles

Food packaging products: fast-food containers and wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers

Household products: stain removers for carpet and clothing, water-repellent clothing and fabrics, cleaning products, non-stick cookware, paints, and sealants

Personal care products: certain shampoos, dental floss, and cosmetics

Biosolids: Fertilizer from wastewater treatment facilities that is used on agricultural lands; Storms and rain can cause the run-off to affect ground water and surface water sources and the vegetation that is used by grazing animals.

  • Fire extinguishing foam
  • Fast food packaging
  • Personal care products
  • Paints
  • Photographic processes
  • Stain resistant products
  • Mist suppressant in metal plating in the plating industry
  • Aviation hydraulic fluids
  • Floor polishes
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Mining and oil well surfactants
  • Pesticides and herbicides

Why are PFAS referred to as “Forever Chemicals”?

PFAS are referred to as the “forever chemical” because they will not break down as a result of exposure to the environment. The same chemical structure that makes them so attractive for commercial and industrial use is the same reason they are so resistant to naturally decomposition when exposed to air, water, light, and our bodies. These chemicals can move relatively fast throughout the environment, which makes it much harder to contain a contamination. This makes these forever chemicals a wide spreading issue.