PFAS are synthetic chemicals that have been manufactured and used by a broad range of industries since the 1940s. PFAS are used in many applications because of their unique physical properties such as resistance to high and low temperatures, resistance to degradation, and nonstick characteristics. PFAS have been detected worldwide in the air, soil, and water. Due to their widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. Currently PFAS chemicals are not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA has made it a priority to address PFAS issues because of their widespread use and associated health effects.
PFAS can enter drinking water at sites where they are made, used, disposed of, or spilled. PFAS can be found in the air near manufacturing facilities and can enter rainwater. PFAS are very mobile and can be transported through rainwater run-off and enter surface water (lakes, ponds, etc.) or seep through the soil and migrate into ground water (underground sources of drinking water). PFAS are very long-lasting and are not easily broken down by sunlight or other natural processes so they may remain in the environment for many years. If a public water system or your private well gets its water from a surface or ground water source that is contaminated with PFAS, and the water is not properly treated to remove the PFAS, the chemicals may be in your drinking water and can pass into your body when you ingest (drink or eat food cooked in) them.
It is important to keep in mind that exposure to PFAS does not always mean a person will have health effects. Whether or not a person gets sick from exposure to PFAS depends on how long a person was exposed (duration), how often they were exposed (frequency), and how much PFAS they were exposed to (dose). Personal factors like age, lifestyle, and other illnesses may also determine whether or not a person gets sick from exposure to PFAS. There are many chemicals in the PFAS family, and they may cause different health effects if you are exposed to them. The health effects of PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA have been more widely studied than other chemicals in the PFAS family. Some, but not all, studies in humans with PFAS exposure have shown that certain PFAS may:
Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures to mixtures of PFAS. For the most part, laboratory animals exposed to high doses of one or more PFAS have shown changes in liver, thyroid, and pancreatic function, as well as some changes in hormone levels. Animals and humans process these chemicals differently so more research will help scientists fully understand how PFAS affect human health.
Completely stopping exposure to PFAS is not practical because they are so common and present throughout the world. PFAS exposure through drinking water can be reduced by treating the water using reverse osmosis or certified carbon filtration units, or by using an alternative source of water that is not contaminated. In general, dermal contact with water is not a health concern because PFAS are not readily absorbed through the skin. Using water that contains PFAS for showering, bathing, laundry, or household cleaning is generally safe. PFAS are also present in many consumer products. Learning about the presence of PFAS in consumer products and avoiding or limiting exposure to these products can help reduce PFAS exposures.
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act established National Primary Drinking Water Standards for contaminants that may be harmful to your health. On March 14, 2023 the EPA announced the proposed National Primary Drinking Water Standard for six PFAS chemicals. More information about EPA's proposed rule can be found at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/03/29/2023-05471/pfas-national-primary-drinking-water-regulation-rulemaking Although there are no enforceable standards associated with PFAS chemicals, there are health advisory levels established for PFAS chemicals.
Drinking water health advisories provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to states agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methods, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. EPA's lifetime health advisories identify levels to protect all people, including sensitive populations and life stages, from adverse health effects resulting from exposure throughout their lives to these PFAS in drinking water. EPA's lifetime health advisories also take into account other potential sources of exposure to these PFAS beyond drinking water (for example, food, air, consumer products, etc.), which provides an additional layer of protection.
If you are concerned about PFAS in your drinking water, contact the Drinking Water Program or your local water utility to learn more about your drinking water and to see whether they have monitoring data for PFAS or can provide any specific recommendations for your community. In many communities, public health officials have taken steps to reduce exposure to PFAS in drinking water. Current science indicates that lower levels of PFAS exposure present less risk, so those efforts help protect public health. Drinking water systems have reduced exposure to PFAS by closing contaminated wells, changing the rates of blending of water sources, or installing technologies that remove PFAS from the water (such as granular activated carbon or reverse osmosis).
Please Contact the Drinking Water Department for additional information:Email