Per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorosulfonic acid (PFOS), GenX and other chemicals are man-made chemicals manufactured and used in industries around the world since the 1940s. The EPA has found evidence that exposure to PFAS can cause adverse health effects and remain persistent in the human body for years. In other words, these chemicals do not break down and can accumulate over time.
According the EPA, PFASs have been found in the following:
- 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.
- Eight large chemical manufacturers agreed to stop the use of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in the production of their commodities. The United States no longer manufactures PFOAs; however, they continue to be produced internationally and are imported into the United States in consumer goods. Goods such as carpet, leather, clothing apparel, textiles, paper and packaging materials, coatings, rubber and plastics are still imported.
Source: USEPA, EPA 823R18004, www.epa.gov/pfas, February 2019