Weathering the PFAS Storm
Unless you have been hiding under an environmental-news rock, you are aware of the storm that has been brewing in regards to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS. According to the most recent data, PFAS have been found in public water supplies in 33 states, and presumably more are expected. And worse, depending on what article you read, PFAS have been measured at concentrations unsafe to drink.
PFAS have been in production since the 1940s and are EVERYWHERE – being used in both industrial and consumer products. They are associated with Teflon®, Scotchguard®, food wrappers, clothing, sofas, frying pans, deodorant, carpets, firefighting foam, lubricants, and the list goes on and on. PFAS have even been found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. We can debate whether or not this is a concern from an unacceptable risk to human health standpoint, but in the court of public opinion, the response is – and will be – some form of alarm, followed by blame.
The waves of public opinion are growing, and as a Chemist at Environmental Standards, I have had friends and family approach me in the last couple of weeks with comments and questions like, “Is our water safe?,” “How could this have gone unknown?” and “I am throwing out my non-stick cooking pans!” Whether you are a drinking-water provider, discharger to surface waters, potential responsible party, or attorney – set your sails, and hold on, for the storm is upon us.
The current US EPA limit for how much exposure is considered acceptable in drinking water is 70 parts per trillion. This is not a standard, but a drinking-water health advisory. Within the PFAS family of compounds, only two PFAS compounds are included in the US EPA advisory limits, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
Now, brace yourself for the storm trifecta:
The accumulation of good PFAS data is critical to battling this storm. As the court of public opinion moves quickly from alarm to blame, PFAS forensics will begin to play a critical role. Whose PFAS are these? Are they attributable to field contamination? Is industrial use the source? Consumer products use? Firefighting activities?
The Chemists at Environmental Standards can help you weather this storm and guide in the creation of defensible third-party PFAS forensics. Important tools include, laboratory and analytical method selection, use of appropriate PFAS compound standards, establishing QA/QC and data usability requirements, PFAS pattern comparisons, verifiable compound identification and calculation of PFAS concentrations, and auditing of field sampling activities. Contact one of our expert Chemists, Rock Vitale, CEAC,610-935-5577 x 400, or David Blye, CEAC, 610-935-5577 x 401, to discuss our services and how we can help.
Lydia M. Work, LRS
Associate Principal Chemist
This article is brought to you by Lydia M. Work. For more information you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org