What are PFAS?

The acronym, PFAS, stands for poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are a complex group of nearly 4,000 man-made fluorinated organic chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products. Some of the more common PFAS chemicals are PFOS, PFOA and PFNA. The chemicals were first synthesized in the 1930s and their first major use was in Teflon® cookware. PFAS are “forever” chemicals that will not breakdown in the environment. Due to extensive use and environmental stability, PFAS contamination is widespread. PFAS can be found in blood samples from virtually all humans and is frequently detected in groundwater, surface water systems, and drinking water supplies.

What products can PFAS be found in?

PFAS can be found in:

  • Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water.
  • Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs).
  • Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.
  • Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).
  • Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.

The effects of PFAS

In the body, PFAS primarily settle into the blood, kidney, and liver. With such widespread exposure to PFAS, it’s no surprise that PFAS chemicals are detected in the blood of up to 98% of the US population. Research continues to grow on the effects of PFAS. Adverse health effects of PFAS include:

  • Liver and thyroid disease
  • Testicular and kidney cancer
  • Reproductive and developmental toxicity
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Ulcerative colitis

What’s being done

One big way we can limit our exposure to PFAS is by taking control of our drinking water. In 2018, New Jersey became the first state to establish an enforceable drinking water regulatory limit for a specific PFAS chemical (PFNA). In addition, on June 1, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) officially published its adoption of enforceable

maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for two other specific PFAS chemicals (PFOA & PFOS). Quarterly monitoring of public water systems has begun for PFNA. Monitoring by all community and non-transient non-community water systems to start in the 1st quarter of 2021 for PFOA & PFOS. PFAS compounds will be added to the NJ Private Well Testing Act.

Read T&M Associates’ PFAS fact sheet to learn more >>

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