The 20th century saw astonishing advances in scientific discovery and exponential growth in the development of chemicals. It has only been in the last several decades however that scientists have begun to understand the dangers inherent in the use of many of these chemicals. Chemical compounds once thought to be harmless were incorporated into the manufacturing of all kinds of items that people used in their everyday lives, only to be discovered later to be the source of myriad health issues. Such is the case with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known by the abbreviation PFAS. Considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be “forever chemicals,” these industrial contaminants are used in numerous products, in a variety of industries. They’re now known to be dangerous to human health, so how do we end up with PFAS in drinking water? More importantly, what can be done to remove them?
So, what are PFAS?
A group of man-made chemicals, PFAS have been used in the United States since the 1940s. The two most commonly produced PFAS are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), but there are over 4,000 different PFAS. They’re used to achieve water-repellence in items like fast food wrappers, non-stick pans, clothing, cosmetics, pizza boxes, and fire fighting foam. While they do not occur naturally in the environment, and many are no longer being made, PFAS are increasingly being found in wildlife, fish, and humans. Why?
PFAS often get into waterways in places where they are manufactured or where firefighters are trained. At military bases and airports, where firefighters conduct training exercises, foam is left to wash away, causing pollution by depositing PFAS in water. Because PFAS are made to repel water, oil, and stains, they do not break down quickly. What are PFAS in water likely to do? Stay present, until they are deliberately removed.
Is there a safe level of PFAS in drinking water?
The EPA has set a Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for safe PFAS consumption, and it is estimated that 16 million people in the United States have come into contact with drinking water with elevated levels. That 70 ppt figure is hotly debated among scientists, and environmental chemists at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the minimum risk levels for drinking water should be 7 ppt for PFOS and 11ppt for PFOA. Currently, there are no federal standards for PFAS in public water supplies, but states set their own guidance levels.
What happens when PFAS are not removed from a water supply?
They pose a risk to human health. People exposed to high levels of PFAS can experience increased cholesterol levels, changes in liver enzymes, disrupted hormonal function, increased risk of thyroid disease, decreased odds of conception, high blood pressure during pregnancy, decrease in infant birth weights, decreased vaccine response in children, and increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers. There are blood tests to indicated PFAS exposure, but these tests do not measure the level of exposure or the risk of adverse health effects.
Municipal water supplies are tested to determine the level of PFAS, and if you get your drinking water from a private well or a spring, you can have it tested, as well. You can also have the water within your home analysed, to determine which contaminants it may contain. When water utilities discover high PFAS levels in the public water supply, the response is to employ water treatment solutions to lower those levels. However, the best way to protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of PFAS is to install a water filtration system in your home.
In-home water treatment technologies like reverse osmosis and carbon filtration are effective at reducing PFAS contamination in drinking water. These filtration systems can be installed as point-of-use units, as with a purifier at the kitchen sink, or point-off-entry, as with a whole-home water filtration system. Kinetico’s water treatment technologies offer practical solutions to the serious environmental issue of PFAS contamination. These systems are considered the gold standard of water filtration, and they remove not only PFAS chemicals but also many other contaminants, including viruses and bacteria. They provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a safe water supply, with water that is healthful and pure.
If you think you might benefit from a water filtration system, the first step is to have your water analyzed.
For a free water analysis and consultation, trust Kinetico Quality Water to test your water and help develop a treatment plan. Kinetico is Tucson, Arizona’s local source for water treatment, providing the cleanest, greenest, most efficient water systems ever made. We understand the challenges of the Tucson area, and our systems use less water than traditional water softeners. We also stand behind our products, with the most comprehensive warranty coverage in the industry. Call 520.428.5497 today or contact us for a free quote.