Since the 1940’s a number of products made to repel oil and water, as well as fire retardants, contain the man-made chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Today, PFAS are found in nonstick cookware, flame- and water-resistant clothing, food wrappers, plumber’s tape, stain prevention products, and even coatings on wires. Unfortunately, now we know PFAS are toxic, harmful to human health, and extremely persistent in the environment.
According to the US EPA, a “certain number of PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the US.” However, since they are still produced internationally many imported products such as textiles like carpet and leather, may contain PFAS. Dispersal into the environment is not limited to industrial applications: these compounds are also frequently used in heavy equipment fluids (e.g., agricultural and logging machinery) and are even employed in so-called “silent” sports like skiing (fluorocarbon-type waxes) and biking (chain and gear lubricants). Well water in these rural areas can be prone to PFAS contamination due to their use.
What is the safe amount of PFAS in water?
There is no water quality standard yet for PFAS in water. While the current guidelines for protecting human health are set at 70 ppt by the U.S. EPA, the Center for Disease Control recently released a report finding safe levels of PFAS chemicals to be up to 10-times lower than the EPA’s levels for human health.