All You Need to Know About PFOS and PFOA

All You Need to Know About PFOS and PFOA

In recent years, growing concerns have come to light over two chemicals. These two environmental contaminants go by cryptic acronyms, so here we’ll explore all you need to know about PFOS and PFOA.

The PFOS and PFOA Basics

PFOS stands for perfluorooctane sulfonate while PFOA stands for perfluorooctanoic acid, and these manmade chemicals have been used in the manufacture of a diverse selection of consumer goods from stain resistant carpets and Teflon pans to pizza boxes. Unfortunately, this has led to PFOS and PFOA working their way into the air, water, and soil around the globe.

Both PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated chemicals that are part of a larger family of compounds known as PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances). All these synthetic compounds are considered unique as they are lipid and water resistant. This water, oil and grease deterrent properties have made fluorochemicals useful in industrial and manufacturing.

Since the 1950s, PFOA, and PFOS have been the most extensively produced fluorochemicals in the United States. These compounds have been used to create nonstick, stain resistant and waterproof consumer goods, such as leather, polishes, fire retardant foams, pesticides, cleaning products, food packaging, and photographic processing. Unfortunately, manufacturing meant that substantial quantities of PFOA and PFOS were released into the environment. It is estimated that over 7,000 metric tons of fluorochemicals can be attributed to direct contamination from consumer use and manufacturing.

The Environmental Risk

One of the major concerns is that PFOA and PFOS are very persistent chemicals. These complex synthetic substances are not easily degraded or broken down by natural processes. Researchers have been struggling to find methods of neutralizing these chemicals even using the most advanced technological strategies. Additionally, PFOA and PFOS are easily dispersed, as they are water soluble; readily migrating from the soil to groundwater sources. These compounds have even been detected in soil and water samples in the Arctic caps and other remote areas.

PFOA and PFOS not only pose a risk to wildlife, but they can also affect humans. An NHANES (U.S National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) and CDC study reported the presence of PFOA and PFOS in 98% of blood samples tested. Follow up research suggests that PFOA and PFOS are lingering in the blood of almost every person in the United States.

The Health Concerns

Specific health concerns of PFOA and PFOS exposure has been difficult to document. The concerns voiced by the EPA Scientific Advisory Board were assessed and debated for years. More recently, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Division of National Toxicology Program and Office of Health Assessment and Translation issued statements that the immunotoxicity of these chemicals will finally be re-evaluated.

The primary evidence for PFOA and PFOS contact relates to animal studies where exposure produced a number of adverse health effects including neuroendocrine, reproductive and developmental issues. Human toxicology research has shown that PFOA and PFOS are readily absorbed through oral exposure, allowing the chemicals to accumulate in the liver, kidney, and serum, with a half-life up to 9 years.

If you have concerns about PFOA and PFOS water contamination, be sure to speak to a water treatment professional. Your local WQA certified technician can assess your water and guide you through the most appropriate treatment options that meet or even exceed the industry standards.

By Mark Williams (NicMar President Mark Williams holds degrees in Applied Science and Industrial Thermodynamics, along with Agricultural Mechanization and Systems Engineering from Ohio State University.  He also holds the highest possible industry ranking, being WQA (Water Quality Association) LEVEL 6 Certified.

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