The PFAS Problem: What You Should Know

What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) or PFAS compounds, are man made, carbon, and fluorine based chemicals. PFAS compounds are incredibly resistant to breaking down. Since the early 1940’s, PFAS have been used in various consumer and industrial products, including protective coatings, waterproof fabrics, and firefighting foam. Their resistance to heat, oil and water is what makes them so useful. There are hundreds of known compounds, each with varying uses in our daily lives. Unfortunately, we are finding PFAS regularly in groundwater and drinking water. Read the full description directly from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Effects of PFAS on the Human Body

PFAS compounds don’t occur in nature, and it takes a significantly longer time for these compounds to break down in the environment and in the human body. The CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says PFAS contamination has the potential to affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children. It could lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant, and it could increase the risk of cancer.

Scientists are still learning about how PFAS exposure affects human health, but regulations to reduce their use and testing water for contamination is the first step toward understanding how to combat what are known as forever chemicals.

How is PFAS Analyzed?

Organizations like the EPA, the U.S. Department of Defense or DOD and ASTM International have established LC/MS/MS methods for measuring PFAS. Other organizations are also working towards this effort. Recently, EPA updated its Method 537, originally published in 2009 to include some of the emerging PFAS like GenX, which was introduced in the U.S. market as a replacement for PFOA. The EPA, ASTM and DOD are continuing to develop and publish new standardized methods to better understand the occurrence of PFAS in the environment.

What’s Being Done

The good news is that many people are working hard to remove these chemicals from groundwater, drinking water, consumer products and other sources of exposure. Questions are now being raised to manufacturers such as, are PFAS necessary in this product and is there a safer alternative. We can avoid costly procedures to eliminate the chemicals and save lives for years to come in a future where they are not used at all.

Shimadzuan, director. Solutions for PFAS Analysis in the Environment. YouTube, YouTube, 11 Mar. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb3kk27wTCE. 

Aptiadmin, director. Explained: What Are PFAS Compounds and How Can They Affect Human Health? YouTube, YouTube, 18 Oct. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKg7Mr9M3CQ.

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