Are You One of Millions Drinking PFAS-Contaminated Water?

The acronym “PFAS” refers to a large group of industrial chemicals called “per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.” There are hundreds of these highly toxic chemicals that contain fluorine, a poisonous pale yellow gas. They are used in so many different products that in a single day, you might have hundreds of encounters with products manufactured with one or even many PFAS chemicals.

You’ll find them used in products like these:

  • Non-stick cookware (e.g., Teflon)
  • Stain-resistant coatings on carpets and upholstery
  • Water-resistant clothing
  • Food packaging such as fast food wrappers
  • Firefighting foams
  • Cleaning products
  • Cosmetics such as waterproof makeup and sunscreen
  • Electrical wire insulation
  • Dental floss
  • Ski and snowboard wax
  • Adhesives and sealants
  • Paints and coatings

Because these items are all around us, these toxic chemicals are an unavoidable part of our lives. This is so true that nearly every person in the United States has a measurable amount of PFAS in their blood.

PFAS Enter Our Air, Soil and Water

Intentionally or unintentionally, these chemicals are daily being released into our air, soil and water. Discarded items that contain PFAS are tossed into our landfills and the chemicals then seep into the ground and make their way into groundwater. From there, it is easy to see that PFAS will follow the flow of groundwater until that water is gathered by our municipal and private wells.

What makes this situation truly tragic is that these are called “forever chemicals” because they take hundreds or even thousands of years to degrade into non-toxic elements. At one time, PFAS were thought to be miracles of modern chemistry because they were so useful. Gradually, the damaging health effects began to appear.

Slowly, some of the worst PFAS have been removed from the market. State after state began to ban the use of PFAS in children’s products, cosmetics, food packaging or firefighting foam. But PFAS are already in our groundwater and our wells.

Detecting These Chemicals in Our Drinking Water

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization that monitors the presence of PFAS in our water. They publish reports on how often these chemicals show up in America’s drinking water. They reported that one type of PFAS called PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) was found in the drinking water of 30 states. It was used to make non-stick cookware and stain-resistant and waterproofing coatings but is now banned. 

Another, PFOS (perfluorooctanoic sulfonic acid), used in food packaging and firefighting foams, was found in the drinking water of 28 states. It has also been banned. There are hundreds more of these chemicals still in use. 

The Health Effects of PFAS

The Environmental Protection Agency lists the many harmful effects of PFAS:

  • Developmental delays in children
  • Low birth weight
  • Thyroid disruption
  • Behavior changes
  • Increased risk of prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers
  • Impaired immunity
  • Reduced vaccine response
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Liver damage
  • Delayed puberty
  • Reduced fertility
  • High blood pressure
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Obesity

Removing PFAS from Your Water

If there are PFAS in your well water, you need to know about it. Then you need to know how to remove them. Both activated carbon and reverse osmosis systems can make your drinking water safer by removing PFAS.

According to Consumer Reports, to find a water filtration system that can remove PFAS, look for the code NSF/ANSI 53 (or NSF/ANSI 58 for reverse osmosis systems) accompanied by the manufacturer’s claim that the filter will remove PFAS. “NSF” indicates that the claim has been certified by the National Sanitation Foundation. 

Remember that you must remove PFAS from all water that could be ingested, including water used for brushing teeth. If you have PFAS in your well water but filter only your drinking water, children should be warned not to drink or rinse their mouths with bath or shower water.

PFAS Can Travel Miles in the Air or Groundwater

PFAS are good travelers and are moved via rainwater run-off, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams until they reach large underground aquifers. When firefighting foam is used at an airport, for example, the foam percolates into the ground. From there, the chemicals slowly bleed into groundwater where they persist for many decades. Unfortunately, the science of PFAS remediation is too immature to tell us how far PFAS will travel in groundwater.

A report from Harvard University stated that PFAS emissions from one manufacturing facility in the Ohio River Valley averaged 5,900 kilograms of chemicals released per year. These emissions were carried by the wind and deposited in surface water as far away as 17 miles.

Even though your home may be miles from an industrial center, your well water may still be affected.

Start by Testing Your Well Water

Fortunately, it is possible to find out if your well water is a reservoir for PFAS. ETR Laboratories can provide you with test results to tell you if you need to choose a filter to remove PFAS from your household water. Call us at (800) 344-9977 for a fast, accurate test of PFAS chemicals.