What is PFAS?
PFAS, or perfluoroalkylated substances, are a group of more than 4,000 man-made chemicals, with strong carbon-fluorine bonds, that have been used to make cookware packaging, stain repellants, food packaging and clothing. other consumer products for nearly a century. Airports, factories and military bases have all used PFAS extensively in the past.
Not only were PFASs included in some products and packaging, but they were also released as a production by-product in factories. This has resulted in an accumulation of PFAS in the environment, including air, soil and natural water sources. PFAS are known as âpermanent chemicalsâ because they can persist in the environment for a long time, giving a high likelihood of public exposure.
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How Do Forever’s Chemicals Affect People’s Health?
Exposure to PFAS can cause several health effects, many of which are long-term. Human bodies are unable to expel these chemicals, so they can build up gradually until they reach harmful levels.
Some of the potentially harmful health effects of exposure to PFAS include:
In a series of studies, PFAS has been shown to have strong links with several types of cancer, including kidney, testicular, ovarian, prostate and thyroid cancer, as well as leukemia. infantile. PFAS have been labeled as potentially carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Low infant birth rate
In a study of prenatal exposure to PFAS, these permanent chemicals were linked to preterm birth and short stature for gestational age. The study found that when one or both parents had elevated blood levels of PFAS, the child’s growth rate was affected during the first two years of life.
Effects on the immune system
Studies have shown that consuming foods or drinking water containing PFAS can reduce our resistance to infectious diseases. There is even some evidence to suggest that exposure to PFAS may affect the immune system’s antibody response to vaccines.
According to a CDC report, one of the harmful health effects of PFAS is high cholesterol, although more evidence is needed to confirm how this health effect may present itself in the long term.
Disruption of thyroid hormones
PFAS have the ability to disrupt endocrine function and alter thyroid function, new data shows. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS in children can harm thyroid cells and can cause “accumulation, cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, interference with TH synthesis, TPO function and iodine uptake.” “. It can affect brain development, cognitive functions, and behavior.
How do PFAS get into water?
Even if you avoid using products containing PFAS, you may still be exposed to these chemicals in your drinking water. Localized contamination of water with PFAS is rare but still possible.
Communities near factories that produce PFAS or use this chemical in the manufacturing process are more likely to drink PFAS in their water. PFAS can be discharged or released into the atmosphere, where they can settle on the ground and seep into groundwater sources.
Fire fighting foam, which contains PFAS, can also contaminate water. Communities living near airfields or military bases may be at greater risk for the presence of PFAS in their drinking water.
Research has shown that the water supplies of at least 6 million people in the United States contain high levels of PFAS that exceed the public health recommendations of the Environmental Protection Agency.
What are the regulations regarding PFAS in tap water?
The EPA’s public health advisory for PFOS and PFOA, the two most common types of PFAS, states that these chemicals should not exceed 70 ppt (parts per trillion) in public drinking water supplies.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) believes the EPA standards are too lenient and has established its own much stricter advisory level for PFAS in water. According to this group of activists, a sample of public water containing more than one part per trillion of PFAS can have harmful effects on health.
Some states and government agencies in the United States have set their own lower limits for regulating PFAS in local water supplies. You can find out the maximum contaminant level in your area for PFAS by visiting your state’s health ministry website.
How are PFASs removed from drinking water supplies?
PFAS are among the most difficult contaminants in drinking water to remove, but there are still ways to remove them, both on a large scale and in home applications.
Some of the most effective ways to remove PFAS from drinking water are as follows:
Reverse osmosis systems consist of several stages of filtration, including a carbon filter, pre-filter and post-filter and a reverse osmosis membrane. These systems are efficient enough to remove over 99.99% of almost all contaminants from drinking water, including PFAS.
A reverse osmosis system works by forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane, made up of tiny pores that only let water particles through. Contaminants that are larger than water particles bounce off the membrane and are eventually flushed out of the system through a drain. Due to the waste of water involved in the RO process, it is generally not used as a large scale water treatment solution.
A more affordable and efficient alternative to reverse osmosis is carbon filtration. Carbon filters use the adsorption process to trap contaminants in their media, preventing them from passing through with the water. Granular activated carbon and powdered activated carbon can be used to reduce or eliminate PFAS.
Carbon filtration is not as efficient as reverse osmosis because water flows through one filtration step, rather than several.
Ion exchange resins
Finally, ion exchange resins are made up of hydrocarbon resins that attract contaminants like magnets. PFAS adhere to resin beads and are removed when the system flushes or regenerates.
While ion exchange is an effective option for PFAS removal, not all ion exchange resins will remove these chemicals. For example, water softeners that use ion exchange to remove calcium and magnesium are unable to remove PFAS.
Many small-scale filtration methods are now available to reduce PFAS and other common contaminants from drinking water in the home. Filters that have NSF 53 certification have been tested by an accredited third party and found to be effective in removing impurities that have potential health effects, including PFAS.