Stop PFAS Water Contamination – Part 1

All of us have heard about oil spills, plastic trash, and other water contamination in the ocean. It causes serious health risks to marine plants and animals. But did you know that the very same chemicals could cause water contamination in your own home?

PFAS is a class of common chemicals that often cause water contamination. It’s likely heard them referred to as “forever chemicals.” Research suggests PFAS could cause cancer and other serious diseases. Getting rid of PFAS is difficult by ordinary methods, but with a whole-house water filter, you can enjoy chemical-free water in your home all day long.

What is PFAS?

PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoalkyl substances. At least 4,730 such substances are produced in labs, and none naturally occur in the wild.

You have probably interacted with a PFAS before. They go into the making of Teflon® nonstick pans, waterproof clothing, paints, cleaning products, and even firefighting foams. Teflon® is helpful as a nonstick pan coating because it does not react well with other chemicals or break down quickly. But imagine having Teflon® in your bloodstream!

The production of PFAS dates back to 1938 when a scientist in a DuPont lab accidentally created Teflon®. Since then, many factories have produced PFAS, polluting the environment with almost a century’s worth of these “forever chemicals.”

Two of the most common PFAS found today are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8. PFOA is one of the main ingredients in Teflon®.

Today, factories produced less PFOA and PFAS than earlier in the 20th century. Companies like 3M began phasing out production in 2000 due to environmental concerns.

They’re known as “forever chemicals,” because the molecular bonds that form them can take thousands of years to degrade, meaning that they accumulate both in the environment and in our bodies.

What can PFAS do to your body?

Medical research on PFAS in human subjects dates back to at least 1955 when a study showed that PFAS bind to proteins in human blood.

Research into PFAS is inconclusive but suggests several possible health risks associated with long-term exposure to PFAS. According to the CDC, high levels of PFAS may lead to:

  • Increased cholesterol
  • Decreased vaccine response in children
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women
  • Decreases in infant birth weights
  • Increased risk of testicular and kidney cancer

The EPA has also released a health advisory of no more than 70 parts per trillion for PFAS in drinking water. They based this decision on laboratory studies on animals. Such studies indicated that even minute amounts of PFAS would trigger a toxicity response in rat livers.

How much is water contamination due to PFAS?

Quite a lot. For one thing, scientists have found PFAS in the bloodstream of about 98% of all Americans. It got in there from either contaminated water, plastic packaging, or food made using equipment containing PFAS.

As for the overall environmental impact, this infographic shows just how widespread PFAS contamination is. Hotspots are located all over the United States, with denser clusters on each coast. Note that New Jersey has data points across the entire state. Having a long history of industrial production of PFAS and other chemicals, New Jersey suffers from a great deal of groundwater contamination.

With less extensive industrial production, the country’s middle shows much less water contamination from PFAS, except for Colorado.

Regulations of PFAS to prevent water contamination

On a national level, the EPA has not placed enforceable limits on the levels of PFAS in drinking water. However, they have released an unenforceable health advisory of no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS in drinking water.

New Jersey currently has the strictest standards on water pollution in the country as New Jersey also has a long history of water contamination from industrial factories. In 2018, New Jersey became the first state in the US to set a maximum standard of 13 parts per trillion in drinking water.

Currently, New Jersey mandates a maximum of 10 parts per trillion of PFAS in drinking water. That being said, PFAS themselves do not care about the law, and it is still possible to find wells that register well over the EPA maximum of 70 parts per trillion in New Jersey.

Over the past decade, the safety of nonstick cookware has been under investigation. The concerns have centered on a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which was previously used to produce nonstick cookware, but isn’t used today.

How to save yourself from ingesting PFAS

The safest and most effective way to save yourself from PFAS and other harmful chemicals is to install a whole house water filter designed to address these “forever chemicals.” Such a system allows you to drink clean, safe water, wash bodies and clothing free of exposure, all from the comfort of your home. You can also store your filtered water in stainless steel or glass water bottles, allowing you to avoid the chemicals in bottled water too.

Schaible’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning has a solution with a whole-house water treatment filtration system designed for PFAS. Called PIONEER and made by Enpress, installation is simple and only takes one day. The device measures 24’’ by 24’’, about the same size as a water softener. And Schaible’s installs it right where the water supply enters the house so that you can be sure that it filters all available water.

The PIONEER system doesn’t just remove PFAS from the water. It removes a significant collection of the most harmful contaminants, including lead, giardia, crypto bacteria, chlorine, and chloramine.

In Part II of this article, we’ll address whole house water treatment options and the pros and cons of whole house filters. If you join our mailing list, you’ll receive a notification when it is published.

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