Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade chemicals that have been used in many fields of work around the world. The United States has been using them since the 1940s.
There are over 4,000 PFAS compounds. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) have been the most widely produced and studied. PFOA and PFOS do not break down and can collect in the body and in nature over time. PFOA and PFOS are no longer made in the United States. Yet, they are still made in other countries and imported into the US.
How can I be exposed to PFAS?
People can come in contact with PFAS by:
- eating or drinking items that have PFAS
- using some consumer products
- breastfeeding and during pregnancy (mother to baby)
- breathing dust that has PFAS
PFAS and health
Scientists are still learning how these chemicals affect people’s health. Some studies show a possible link between PFAS and some health problems, including:
- lowering the body’s ability to fight off infection
- increases in cholesterol levels in the blood
- cancers in the liver, kidneys, and testicles
In 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. Some state governments are now making their own drinking water standards for PFAS. Some of these are stricter than the federal guidelines and include additional PFAS chemicals. Since 2016, PFAS have been found in public and private drinking water across the country. Some at levels higher than the federal and state advice.
For more information on PFAS in your state:
- Connecticut: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Remediation--Site-Clean-Up/Contaminants-of-Emerging-Concern/Per--and-Polyfluoroalkyl-Substances
- Maine: https://www.maine.gov/dep/spills/topics/pfas/index.html
- Massachusetts: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas
- New Hampshire: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/programs-services/environmental-health-and-you/poly-and-fluoroalkyl-substances-pfas
- Rhode Island: https://health.ri.gov/water/about/pfas/
- Vermont: https://www.healthvermont.gov/environment/drinking-water/perfluoroalkyl-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-drinking-water
Below are some additional resources for PFAS.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PFAS_FactSheet.html
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): https://www.epa.gov/pfas
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PFAS_FactSheet.html
- United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA): https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas