Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) chemicals were developed in the 1940s, and have been used in the production of commercial, industrial, and consumer products such as non-stick cookware, water-resistant fabrics, fire-fighting foams, and grease-proof food packaging. In 2002, companies in the United States began phasing out the use of PFAS, however, products with PFAS are still being produced in other countries in the world and being imported into the US.
What makes PFAS “one of a kind” is the strong molecular bonds which maintain the longevity of the product for longer. The big downside of PFAS chemicals in products is they don’t break down in the environment. PFAS will be with us for years to come, and you need to take the steps necessary to help protect your business from high levels of exposure.
How PFAS Chemicals Could Impact Your Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that Americans are most likely to be exposed to PFAS by consuming water or food. If your business relies on a water resource in the development of your food and beverage products, then this message is for you. So what physical effects do PFAS have your body? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports their studies have found exposure to PFAS above certain levels can have adverse health effects on the body including, cancer, issues related to the liver, compromised immune system, and even developmental impacts on fetuses during pregnancy. Research remains ongoing, but the general consensus from environmental and health professionals is that you want to avoid exposure to PFAS at all costs.
No Federal Regulation
It may surprise you to learn there is not yet a federal drinking water standard for PFAS. The health advisory level of 70 ppt set by the EPA is non-enforceable. Each state is responsible for setting their own threshold. Some states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Michigan were among the states to update their procedures and set stricter standards in 2020. In June 2021, the EPA completed steps to further protecting the public from PFAS. The agency announced three actions to help better protect all US communities from pollution which include:
- A proposed rule designed to gather comprehensive data on more than 1,000 types PFAS of manufactured in the US.
- Withdrawing protocols that weakened the ability to restrict long-chain PFAs.
- Publishing a final rule that officially incorporates three additional PFAs into the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).
Michal Freedhoff, the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention said in a statement, “When it comes to tackling PFAS, the EPA is committed to strengthening our rules, improving our data, and advancing our understanding of these complex chemicals, and then using this information to make informed decisions to protect people and the environment. These actions will help us harness the best available science to develop policies and programs that can improve health protections for everyone, including those living in historically underserved communities.”
Each year, the EPA is rewarded grant money to continue the research into effects of PFAS on both humans and the environment. As recently as August 2020, the EPA received $4.8 million grant to go towards research regarding managing PFAS in agriculture. These efforts to research PFAS have grown because of increased worldwide pollution. Look for the EPA to continue to do the research to keep the public and the environment safe from harmful toxins.
Finding Out If Your Water is Impacted
Unlike chlorine and hydrogen sulfide gas, PFAS cannot be tasted or detected through smell. The EPA suggests that local municipal water officials and public health officials notify consumers when PFAS concentrations exceed its health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The agency has standards set to require water suppliers to send customers a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) which is an annual drinking water quality report that will notify individuals and businesses of any contamination issues. Most public health officials will advise you that city water is arguably the better option when compared with well water for most businesses, but not all! Your water capacity needs, location, budget and other factors are important to determine. Call a professional that can help you decide what’s best for you. The EPA encourages well water customers to reach out to local health officials, who may know if the contaminants have been detected in other well water supplies in the area.
Addressing the Risk of PFAS Chemicals
If you opt to install a water treatment system, choosing what is going to work best for your company’s needs is important. Not all water filters can remove PFAS to the EPA’s advisory level of less than 70 ppt. Look for water treatment solutions first by consulting with a commercial water treatment company with at least 20+ years of experience, their solutions will keep your business’ water supply pure. Common store-bought filters may not have enough carbon or the best type of carbon to reduce PFAS. A qualified commercial water treatment company will provide you products that can be custom fitted in whatever location in your facility, and will offer you the following services and systems:
- DI Tank Exchange Service
- Reverse Osmosis System
- Water Sotener and Filtration
- Carbon Filtration
Without reliable water treatment systems, you’re opening your business up to a higher chance of contamination during the manufacturing process.
PFAS chemicals have contributed to many great inventions, however, health and safety officials have made it very clear that PFAS is a widespread issue which is affecting just about every US citizen. It’s important your business is protected against PFAS with commercial water treatment system designed specifically for your operation.