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What Are PFAS and Why Are They a Concern for Drinking Water

What Are PFAS and Why Are They a Concern for Drinking Water

Have you heard of PFAS? What about the potential for PFAS in your drinking water? 

You expect your household drinking water to be clean and safe, but that may only sometimes be the reality. In the case of PFAS, not only do they have the potential to get into drinking water, but they can pose a risk to your health. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know, plus some tips on how to reduce your exposure.

What are PFAS?

PFAS refers to man-made chemicals that have been used in various industries and consumer products for decades. They are widely used and long-lasting, breaking down very slowly over time, which ends up posing a threat to the environment and the people living in the environment.

Where are they Found?

PFAS can be found in many different products that include:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Water-repellent clothing like raincoats
  • Tents and umbrellas
  • Grease resistant paper
  • Personal care products like nail polish, eye makeup, shampoo, and dental floss
  • Stain-resistant coatings used on fabrics like carpet and upholstery

What’s Known About PFAS

While there’s still a lot to learn about PFAS, the EPA has learned a lot about these chemicals over the course of time. There are thousands of different PFAS chemicals that are used in the types of products mentioned above. As it pertains to drinking water, they have been linked to a variety of health problems that include thyroid disease, liver damage, and cancer. They have been found in drinking water sources in many different countries, including the United States.

PFAS can get into the drinking water when products that use them are spilled into lakes or rivers. Industrial sites may also release compounds into the air or water, and they can leach from disposal sites and get into the environment or get into groundwater from firefighting foams that are used at airports or military bases.

Since they have been used so pervasively and last such a long time in the environment, there are many PFAS found in the blood of people, animals, and fish in countries all over the world.

How Can PFAS Affect Health?

Most of the health effects that have been studied are from people and animals that have been exposed to two specific PFAS, which are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). These are no longer produced in the United States, but they can still be detected in human blood. There are also newer PFAS that remain in production and can be detected in human blood. Exposure to high levels of PFAS in your drinking water can result in severe health effects that include:

  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancers
  • Hormonal disruptions
  • Increased risk of thyroid disease
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Changes to liver enzymes
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy

You can take a blood test to determine if you’ve been exposed to PFAS, but the test won’t tell you how much you’ve been exposed to or reveal your likelihood of experiencing adverse health effects.

Tips to Reduce Your Exposure

If you want to try and reduce your exposure to PFAS, there are a few things you can do. The first would be to check all product labels on various items that include the words “fluoro” or “perfluoro.” You’ll also want to be aware of any food packaging that contains grease-repellent coatings, such as microwave popcorn bags or fast-food boxes and wrappers.

Any stain-resistant treatments to carpets or furniture should also be avoided, and you shouldn’t apply any finishing treatments to these kinds of items. You’ll also want to avoid any clothing, camping or sports equipment, or luggage that’s been treated for water resistance or stain resistance. It’s also a good idea to avoid using non-stick cookware whenever possible or search for specific products that say they are PFAS-free on the label.

For drinking water, you want to confirm that the source has been tested for PFAS and has acceptable levels. The EPA recommends levels no higher than 70 parts per trillion. You can also opt for bottled water that contains the NSF or IBWA seal. Reverse osmosis filters and granular activated carbon filters can reduce PFAS in water, so having them installed in your home may offer some protection.

If you’d like to learn more about PFAS in your drinking water or have any questions about the safety of your water in general, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today at Blue Heron Water Treatment and Well Service.

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