PFOS & PFOA:
What you need to know
Perfluorochemicals are a family of manmade chemicals that have been used for decades as an ingredient to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water, and are extremely resistant to breakdown in the environment. Common uses of PFCs include: 1) nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, 2) coatings on some food packaging—especially microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers, 3) firefighting foam, and 4) many industrial applications. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). Because of their widespread use over many decades in products the public uses so frequently, PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively studied of these chemicals. You can access more online information from the US EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, respectively, at the following locations:
The EPA identifies the contaminants to regulate in drinking water and sets regulatory limits for amounts of certain contaminants. The EPA currently regulates 90 chemicals in drinking water with “limits” called maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). SUEZ uses the EPA’s MCLs to ensure the quality of the water it provides to its customers. However, there are some contaminants for which the EPA has not developed MCLs and instead has developed health advisories, which provide technical information to states and public health officials but do not prescribe any regulatory limits. EPA has established health advisories for PFOA and PFOS based on the agency’s assessment of the latest peer-reviewed science to provide drinking water system operators, and state and local officials who have the primary responsibility for overseeing these systems, with information on the health risks of these chemicals. As science on health effects of these chemicals evolves, EPA will continue to evaluate new evidence. To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, EPA has established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion.
Yes, the 70 parts per trillion health advisory levels offer a margin of protection for individuals regardless of age. EPA developed the health advisory levels based on possible impacts on the single most vulnerable members of the population - developmental effects to a fetus or breastfed infant resulting from exposures that occur during pregnancy and lactation (nursing). The health advisory levels were also developed to be protective over an individual’s lifetime of exposure to drinking water at these levels for all other health effects.
The source water used by SUEZ to provide drinking water tests below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory levels for PFOA/PFOS and is safe to drink. Testing to date has not detected levels over the EPA Health Advisory of 70 parts per trillion.
EPA is evaluating PFOA and PFOS as drinking water contaminants in accordance with the process required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). To regulate a contaminant under SDWA, EPA must find that it: (1) may have adverse health effects; (2) occurs frequently (or there is a substantial likelihood that it occurs frequently) at levels of public health concern; and (3) there is a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for people served by public water systems.
In 2009, the EPA published provisional health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. At the time they were established, these advisories were 200 parts per trillion for PFOS and 400 parts per trillion for PFOA. More recently, in May 2016, the EPA replaced the 2009 provisional advisories with new, more stringent lifetime health advisories that combined the two chemicals and set a 70 parts per trillion health advisory level for both contaminants.
One part per trillion is the equivalent of one grain of sand in an Olympic-size swimming pool. The EPA’s lifetime health advisory sets a combined limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS.