What is PFAS Testing?
PFAS (Per- and Poly- Fluorinated Alkyl Substances) are a class of man-made (synthetic) compounds that includes PFOS, PFOA, GenX, and many other chemicals. Commercially produced since the 1950s PFAS are widely used worldwide in consumer products such as upholstery, paper food wrappings, and carpeting; and for industrial applications such as AFFFs (Aqueous Film Forming Foams used in firefighting), and metal plating. Of these chemicals, PFOS and PFOA have been the most extensively studied as they both tend to accumulate in the environment and the human body over time with evidence of adverse effects on human health.
As an emerging group of contaminants, PFAS has gained significant concern recently as more research becomes available to regulators. As these compounds do not decompose readily they are persistent in the environment where they can be found in water, soil, and in the air. Critically, they are also known to bio-accumulate in living organisms and PFOA and PFOS, once ingested, are eliminated extremely slowly from the body. If they are continuously consumed or absorbed, these concentrations will increase in the body over time.
Although the manufacture of these products has been phased out in the US since 2002, it can still be found in imported goods or as part of old stock such as carpets, leather, apparel, rubber, plastics, coatings, textiles, packaging, and paper.
PFAS, a class of synthetic chemicals, has been widely used in the manufacture of certain products to make them more waterproof, non-stick, or stain-resistant. Some applications include:
– Non-stick cookware
– Non-stick food packaging
– Waterproof clothing, shoes, and mattresses
– Stain-resistant treatments for carpets, clothing, and furniture
– AFFFs in firefighting foams
Where can PFAS be Found?
Evidence of PFAS have been found in the following sources:
– In food packaged in materials containing PFAS
– In food processed using equipment that contains PFAS
– In food grown in soil or water contaminated by PFAS
– In drinking water typically associated with a specific localized facility, for example, a manufacturer, a landfill, a wastewater treatment facility, or a firefighting training facility. Firefighting foams are a major source of groundwater contamination at military basis and airports where firefighting training typically occurs.
– At a workplace, particularly industries or facilities that include the production of chrome plating, oil recovery, or electronics that makes use of PFAS.
– Commercial household products such as cleaning products, waxes, polishes, paints
– Water repellant and stain-resistant products
– Non-stick products such as Teflon
– Fire-fighting foams
– PFAS have the ability to accumulate and persist over time in living organisms such as animals, fish, and humans.
Water Quality Concerns
In the US many states are struggling with ongoing water quality issues including PFAS, THMs, and arsenic found in drinking water. With the recent unexplained ‘cancer cluster’ that emerged on the NH seacoast, it seems that the news releases from the NHDES cannot satisfy the public’s demand for information and reassurances regarding the quality and safety of their drinking water and their environment.
Most people will have been exposed to PFAS from normal daily living. Once absorbed these chemical compounds remain in the body for very long periods of time. Laboratory tests on animals have produced evidence that PFOS and PFOA can cause adverse health effects including reproductive and developmental issues, liver and kidney disorders, and immunological problems. Both these chemicals have been found to cause tumors in laboratory animals. The most consistent findings among exposed populations are increased cholesterol levels.
More limited findings are related to:
– Adverse effects on the immune system
– Low infant birth weights
– Disruption of the thyroid hormones (PFOS)
– Cancer (PFOA)
How are Humans Exposed to PFAS?
There are many different ways that people can get exposed to PFAS chemicals with different levels of exposure. Food, for example, can expose people to low levels of PFAS which can be at risk of being contaminated by soil and water, packaging, and equipment used in the manufacture and processing of foodstuffs.
PFAS testing is done on samples to ascertain the existence and extent of contamination.
– Chlorinated potable water
– Non-potable fresh water
– Reagent water
– Untreated potable groundwater
Soil, Bio-solids, and Sediments Samples
– All soil or sediment types such as sand, clay, compost, topsoil, fresh sediments and marine sediments.
– Wastewater treatment plant bio-solids
Vegetation and Tissue Samples
– Tomato, citrus, squash, grasses, zucchini
– Muscle tissue of crustaceans, fish, sheep cow
– Kidney tissue of cow and sheep
– Chicken egg
– Human and animal (whole blood serum)
– Human and animal milk
High Fat Vegetation and Liver Samples
– Olive and avocado
– Cow and sheep liver
Because of their detrimental effect on human health and the environment, PFOS and PFOA are two types of FPAS that have become the focus of governmental regulation. Under EPA regulations they are being phased out of production and may no longer be manufactured.
Because of their resistance to degrading, certain areas have experienced a significant increase in accumulation that poses a definite threat to the health of human beings and the environment.