Understanding PFAS in Water

Have you heard of the chemical PFAS?  It’s been a hot topic within the water industry over the past several months.

PFAS stands for Per- and Polyflouroalkyl substances and within the PFAS family tree are chemicals PFOA and PFOS.  They are man-made and gaining traction within the water industry as well as nationwide.  This chemical has not been produced since 2015 when eight major manufacturers agreed to eliminate the production of PFOA and PFOS in their products as well as help stop production worldwide.  This being said, there is no evidence that the replacement chemicals to PFASs are any safer.

PFAS chemicals are commonly found in products that resist sticking, heat, water, stains and grease.  People are exposed to PFASs by using everyday consumer products such as Teflon, cookware, pizza boxes, stain repellents, and water repellent clothes to name a few.  When people are exposed to this chemical, it accumulates and stays within the human body.  Nearly all of us have some level of PFOA or chemicals in our blood since we are exposed to them.  A 2015 study of roughly 1700 participants by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey discovered PFASs in 97 percent of human blood samples. Evidence suggests exposure to PFAS chemicals can lead to adverse health outcomes such as low infant birth weight, effects on the immune system, cancer, and thyroid hormone disruption.

These chemicals are in air, water, and soil as byproducts of the manufacturing process, but they don’t dissolve and can travel many miles.  These chemicals that enter the water supply are isolated in communities where manufacturing plants have used or made the chemicals previously. In 29 states, measurable amounts of PFOA have been found in drinking water.  The US EPA established a health advisory for PFAS in drinking water at 70 parts per trillion.  PFAS can be removed from drinking water within the home using including Granular Activated Carbon, Powdered Activated Carbon, Ion Exchange Resins, and Nanofiltration / Reverse Osmosis. Depending on a homeowner’s budget, these systems can be installed within a home to remove PFASs.  It is best to contact your local water treatment company with a certified water specialist through the Water Quality Association to help understand how to remove these chemicals.