Filtering PFAS, PFOA & PFOS in Your Home
Filtering PFAS, PFOA & PFOS in Your Home
Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemical compounds that include perfluorooctane sulfonate acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These compounds are commonly referred to as the “forever chemicals” because of their persistent nature. Unlike biodegradable materials, they do not readily break down into harmless particles. Rather, their long life coupled with their extensive use, misuse, and improper disposal over the years has resulted in the contamination of drinking water at various locations throughout the United States and other parts of the world. Fortunately, PFAS can be addressed by using the right type of water filter.
What Are the Sources of PFAS?
PFAS have been used for decades in the manufacture of ordinary household products like cleaning supplies, fingernail polish, and pesticides. Industries that relied on them included electronics, construction, and aerospace as well as the military. They have also been used in the production of firefighting foam used to extinguish petroleum-based fires at refineries, airports, and chemical manufacturing plants. Because of their water resistance and nonstick nature, PFAS were used as early as the 1940s in the production of nonstick cookware and nonstick food wrappers. Additionally, products used to treat fabric, furniture, and carpet so that they would repel liquids and resist stains often included PFAS.
The Beginning of PFAS
PFAS have been in development since the 1930s. DuPont was one of the first companies to introduce products containing PFAS when it began to market Teflon-coated nonstick cookware. In the 1950s, a laboratory assistant working for 3M accidentally spilled a substance on her shoe that made her shoe waterproof. 3M used that discovery to treat various products and materials to make them impervious to liquids and resist stains. That was the beginning of Scotchgard. During the 1960s, a fatal fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship led to further development of PFAS in the form of a foam that could extinguish petroleum fires. PFAS soon became a staple on U.S. Military bases. There are now thousands of PFAS chemicals in everyday products that range from microwave popcorn bags to corrosion-resistant wiring.
Are PFAS Harmful to Human Health?
During the years 2005 to 2013, a scientific panel consisting of three highly regarded epidemiologists studied the effect of PFAS on human health. They concluded that there was a probable link between PFAS and many illnesses, including high cholesterol, thyroid disease, cancer of the kidneys, certain types of colitis, and testicular cancer. More recently, a Harvard University study indicates that the harmful health effects of PFAS may have previously been underestimated. The Harvard study adds several more illnesses to the list that could result from PFAS, including decreased fertility and an increased risk of asthma. Recently, during the Covid pandemic, it has also come to light that PFAS may affect a person’s immune system, making them more likely to contract Covid.
How Do PFAS Get into Drinking Water?
PFAS have only recently been suspected of causing adverse health effects, and their past disposal was not highly regulated. Some manufacturing firms disposed of materials containing PFAS by dumping liquids onto the ground, flushing liquids down sanitary sewers, or burying products in landfills. Firefighters often sprayed the ground with foam containing PFAS, and the foam was then washed away. Through seepage, the chemicals eventually found their way into groundwater, which is the source of most drinking water. Additionally, unwary residents inappropriately disposed of materials containing PFAS, which led to additional groundwater and drinking water contamination.
What Is the Prevalence of PFAS in Drinking Water?
As time goes on, more and more water systems are being discovered that contain PFAS. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently revised its estimates of water systems containing PFAS from 2,377 locations to nearly 2,800 locations. This includes over 2,400 public drinking water systems and more than 300 military installations. PFAS have been discovered in municipal and county water systems as well as in private water systems and private wells. The EWG estimates that more than two million Americans are exposed to PFAS in their drinking water.
Has the Government Weighed in on the Presence of PFAS in Drinking Water?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a health advisory regarding the presence of PFAS in drinking water. This advisory recommends that the amount of PFAS in drinking water be limited to 70 parts per trillion. When both PFOAs and PFOSs are found in drinking water, the EPA recommends that the combined total of the two be limited to 70 parts per trillion. This concentration level was chosen by the EPA to guard against a number of health issues, including the following:
• Adverse health effects to breastfed infants, including low birth weight
• Adverse immune effects, including antibody production
• Adverse liver effects, including tissue damage
• Cholesterol changes
• Developmental effects on fetuses during pregnancy
• Testicular and kidney cancer
• Thyroid effects
How Can I Address PFAS from My Drinking Water?
The best way to filter PFAS from your drinking water is to install a water filtering system that contains a carbon filter like those used by Kind Water Systems in their Whole House Water Filters and their Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener Combos. The EPA has stated that carbon filtering is one of the most effective ways of removing PFAS from drinking water, especially when the carbon filter is included in a system that treats water as it comes into the home, such as a whole-house water filtering system. One reason that carbon is so effective is that it is a highly porous material that has the ability to trap a variety of contaminants. Each of the whole-house water filtering systems supplied by Kind Water Systems contains a high-performance Catalytic Activated Coconut Shell Carbon Block filter. This makes them particularly effective in removing PFAS as well as other chemicals.
What Other Contaminants Will a Carbon Filter Address?
Not only will a whole house water filtering system containing the right type of carbon filter address PFAS, but it will also filter a large number of other chemicals and organic materials. Here is a partial list of chemicals that such a water filtering system will address:
Here is a partial list of organic materials that a whole house water filtering system containing the right type of carbon filter will address:
• Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
• Vinyl Chloride
Can I Eliminate PFAS from My Drinking Water by Boiling It?
No, boiling your water will not eliminate PFAS. In fact, it could actually increase the concentration of PFAS in your drinking water. While it is true that water contaminated with bacteria is safe to drink after boiling it, the same is not true for PFAS. Bacteria cannot survive at elevated temperatures, so they are destroyed when water is boiled. However, PFAS are resistant to heat. After all, remember that one of their primary uses in the past has been in nonstick cookware. When you boil water, the amount of water is reduced because of evaporation, but the amount of PFAS remains constant, so the concentration level actually increases.
What Is Currently Being Done to Address PFAS in Drinking Water?
Fortunately, many manufacturers have voluntarily stopped using PFAS in their products. However, there is no current federal mandate to do so. EPA and its partners continue to investigate the subject. Their research includes efforts to better identify and quantify risks, more fully understand the harmful effects of certain chemicals included in the PFAS family and eventually manage and dispose of PFAS. Other organizations involved in PFAS research and elimination efforts include the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Defense (DOD).