What are PFASs (PFOA and PFOS)?
PFASs are substances that have many manufacturing and industrial applications because of their useful properties. PFASs have been used over the last 50 years to make everyday products more resistant to stains, grease, and water. PFASs are used to keep food from sticking to cookware, to make sofas and carpets resistant to stains, or to make clothes and mattresses more waterproof. They are also found in cleaners, textiles, leather, paper and paints, fire-fighting foams, and wire insulation. These chemicals also help to reduce friction so they are also used in a variety of other industries, including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics.
Why are they considered “of emerging concern”?
PFOA and PFOS are environmentally persistent and do not easily breakdown. As such, these compounds are found widely in the environment including bodies of water, soil, dust and in the air. More significant concentrations are found where the compounds are manufactured or made; however, they have been found in the open ocean and in the Arctic.
Screening conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found widespread PFOA human exposure has occurred based on blood testing conducted in the early 2000s. The results of which are published in the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. The significance of this exposure and the levels detected may not fully be understood at this time.
Based on the “best available peer-reviewed studies” of the effects of PFOA and PFOS the US EPA issued it’s advisory. The studies including research on laboratory animals (rats and mice). Additionally, the advisories are also based on findings reported by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to PFASs. These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS exceeding certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes).
The US EPA has established a lifetime Health Advisory Level (HAL) for PFOA and PFOS of 0.070 micrograms per liter (μg/L) or 70 parts per trillion. When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS should be compared with the 70 parts per trillion HAL.
In July 2016, The EPA reported in July 2016 that across the country PFOS was detected in 46 public water supply wells and PFOA was detected in 13 supply wells above the 70 parts per trillion health advisory limit.
California’s Intent to List PFOA and PFOS as Reproductive Toxicants
In September 2016, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) filed public notice of intent to list perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) as known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The public comment period closed in December 2016 and final listing as a reproductive toxicant is expected at a later date.
At this time, California does not have any regulatory standards associated with PFOA or PFOS in drinking water. However, the State of California has required testing of drinking water supplies for PFOA, PFOS, and related chemicals since 2013 as required by the US EPA under the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3). According to the latest UCMR 3 data, 37 California water supply wells have had at least one detection of PFOA or PFOS greater than 40 parts per trillion. Further, six California supply wells had at least one detection of PFOS greater than 70 parts per trillion.
It is anticipated that if OEHHA lists these chemicals as reproductive toxins, more widespread groundwater monitoring, as well as, the development of regulatory standards for these chemicals will follow.
For information about our groundwater assessment or emerging contaminants contact us:
Mike.Cassidy@altaenviron.com or Lynleigh.Love@altaenviron.com.
We can be reached at (888) 608-3010.