Background and More Information on PFAS

Background on PFAS

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is an umbrella term for a family of thousands of synthetic organic compounds containing fluorine atoms. These are created in a lab. They are not found in nature (they are not naturally occurring).

PFAS is a group of chemicals that were used in fire-fighting foams, non-stick cooking pans (Teflon), and some items to make them stain, grease, heat, and water resistant. Some of the most commonly discussed compounds are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid and its ammonium salt (collectively, GenX).

Two PFAS that are most often found in finished drinking water are legacy compounds that are no longer manufactured, but are still being found in the environment, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

EPA Action Plan: PFAS in Drinking Water

The EPA plans to propose preliminary regulatory determinations for PFOA and PFOS by the end of 2019 and to make final determinations by the end of 2020. The EPA’s Action Plan identifies efforts related to evaluating PFAS for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Among other things, the EPA is:

(1) Developing new analytical test methods to support monitoring of more PFAS and at lower levels. (The EPA has validated test methods for 18 PFAS.)

(2) Preparing to use new test methods to include other PFAS in the next Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule in 2020 to assess their occurrence.

(3) Expanding PFAS toxicity information and providing more information about PFAS treatment and costs.