PFAS: Sources, Regulations, and Treatment Options
Brian Yates, P.E., Burgess & Niple and
Ramona Darlington, Ph.D., Battelle Memorial Institute
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, refer to a class of more than 3,000 man-made chemicals. The most familiar of these are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA). PFAS have been produced as complex mixtures and used in commercial goods since the 1940s. Their unique physical and chemical properties such as extreme thermal and chemical stability, and oil, grease, and water repellency make them ideal for:
- Textile coatings
- Paper products
- Food packaging
- Non-stick cookware
- Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) for firefighting
PFAS accumulate over time in the bodies of humans and animals. This accumulation is associated with negative health effects including changes in hormone, liver, thyroid, and pancreatic function. The increasing number of studies published on the effects of PFAS on humans suggest that PFAS could affect fetal development and increase chances of certain cancers, immune system disorders, and fertility problems. Because of these health risks, there is a need to address PFAS contamination in the environment and public works facilities.
This paper examines the sources of PFAS, related state and federal regulations and treatment options.