PFAS chemicals are also known as polyfluoroalkyl substances. This includes both perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The FDA has been working to keep PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS, out of the water.
PFAS have been used since the 1940’s to create stain-resistant and water-resistant materials. They are used in fire-fighting foams, paints, cleaning products, and waxes. They can also be found in food wrappers, non-stick cookware, carpets, rugs, and furniture. Because PFAS have been so ubiquitous, there are larger concerns about its role in the environment. PFAS have only fairly recently been understood in terms of the widespread damage they can cause both people and the environment.
PFAS water contamination can cause a myriad of potential health issues: liver damage, decreased fertility, obesity, hormonal suppression, thyroid disease, and even cancer (see the PFAS Wikipedia entry which disambiguates between different chemicals). The polyfluoroalkyl substances Wiki discusses that there are both human health concerns and potential environmental concerns, both of which scientists are attempting to address by preventing PFAS from being introduced into the water.
On unborn children, PFAS can cause lower birth weights, a reduced response to vaccines, early puberty, or an increased rate of miscarriage. There are a number of issues that children and adults could experience depending on the amount of PFAS they are exposed to.
PFAS are particularly dangerous because they are extremely persistent; in other words, once introduced into an environment, they are difficult to remove. They have been called “forever chemicals” for this reason. Other chemicals may be as toxic but they break down faster or are easier to remove from the environment, making them less of a long-term threat. PFAS can also lead to occupational exposure for those who work heavily with them: manufacturing workers, firefighters, and ski wax technicians.
Once PFAS have been introduced into the environment, there are a few major methods of remediation. They may be removed through water treatment technologies such as reverse osmosis or nano-filtration. There are also a number of experimental ways that are starting to be explored.
Because of the persistence of this chemical, the FDA does quite a lot to protect the environment from it, and to prevent it from entering into the ground water. In recent years, the public has become more aware of the damage that PFAS can cause, and has become more conscientious about it. Still, because many PFAS chemicals are introduced through a manufacturing process, rather than in consumer goods, people may have limited control over their own usage of products with PFAS.
We know that PFAS health effects can be quite severe. Individuals in Michigan and those around and in military bases have experienced some significant contamination, which resulted in clear and widespread symptoms. But everyone has a little PFAS in them. Nearly 99 percent of Americans, in fact, will test positive for PFAS, despite this chemical having been created in the 1940s by 3M. This is because of its status as a “forever chemical,” something that remains within the environment and within people.
What is PFAS contamination? It occurs when a PFAS chemical like a fluorosurfactant enters into your body, usually through water. Michigan contaminated sites and PFAS contamination military bases both experienced these PFAS health effects.
The PFAS list of contamination symptoms include:
- Cancer. PFOA, in particular, is known to cause cancer. Thus, if people who have been exposed to PFOA experience a cancer diagnosis, they should be aware that it may be due to PFOA.
- Low infant birth weights. Low infant birth weights can cause failure to thrive for infants and make it more difficult for infants to achieve a healthy weight and general health in the future.
- Negative impact on the immune system. When the immune system is adversely impacted, individuals can become sicker over time, and may be more vulnerable to other types of illness.
- Thyroid hormone disruption. PFOS can cause a disruption of the human thyroid, which can have a wide variety of symptoms ranging from mood swings to weight gain.
So, what does PFAS do to your body? It can do quite a lot, depending on how much you’ve been exposed. And because PFAS contamination can occur due to a fairly wide variety of chemicals, manufacturing processes, and products, it becomes even more important for companies to control how much PFAS they are using, where, and when. Once PFAS can be appropriately controlled, people will be less likely to be exposed.
The State of Michigan has discovered some significant PFAS contamination throughout the entire state. Both fish and water in Michigan have been impacted. It has taken action to reduce the times when the firefighters will use PFAS foam. Furthermore, hundreds of military bases have been seen to have PFAS contamination, which also means that those who are on the military bases are likely to see the result of PFAS exposure.
The FDA is taking action to try to regulate and manage PFAS, but as of yet there isn’t strong regulations in place and it may take years for them to be developed.
In 2019, more than 500 farms in Michigan had to be quarantined due to PFAS, which included 30,000 heads of cattle. But those in Michigan have been aware of PFAS presence previously, as it had cropped up in well water. Because PFAS has been around since the 1940s, it has likely been causing some issues since then, but after entering into widespread use and building up in the environment, the symptoms are now more severe. Many have died of issues such as liver cancer that could be PFAS-related, but it remains difficult and unclear to diagnose, simply because so many people have been exposed to PFAS, and because many may have succumbed to PFAS-related issues before the knowledge about the danger was known.
Apart from health-related PFAS contamination concerns, there are, of course, also environmental issues. Environmental issues can also have devastating impact to people around PFAS contaminated sites, even beyond the direct PFAS health effects. PFAS is being found in everything from fish to polar bears, and can be causing similar issues in wildlife. To mitigate this, PFAS has to be actively removed from water and the environment.
PFAS contamination sites are found throughout the world, but there have been particular issues with PFAS in water Michigan. First, let’s discuss the PFAS meaning and PFAS definition. PFAS can refer to a number of chemicals, most commonly PFOA and PFOS. PFAS were first created in a laboratory as a system of stain-fighting and water-fighting products. PFAS chemicals, therefore, were used quite frequently from the 40s through the early 2000s, because it was not properly understood that they could be dangerous.
Today, there is a PFAS contamination site tracker, and people are working towards using PFAS water filter systems and PFAS water mitigation to try to remove PFAS from the environment. But PFAS are still in use: they are found in everything from stain-fighting carpeting to food wrappers.
In Michigan, PFAS has been found in high levels in the ground water. This is a major concern because PFAS can cause a number of illnesses in people. PFAS can cause weight gain, thyroid issues, cancer, and birth defects. Because of this, Michigan has been hard at work trying to remove PFAS from the water, through a variety of filtration systems. Companies are also working to reduce reliance upon PFAS, which can be found in things like firefighting foam.
Apart from the health-related issues, PFAS has also caused environmental concerns. The PFAS Michigan fish impact is something that is concerning to environmental scientists, and that can ultimately cause further damage to people.
A major problem to PFAS is that PFOA and PFOS are both “forever chemicals.” They last a long time in the environment and will build up if they are still being introduced. People who are exposed to PFAS will build up more PFAS in their system. This is one of the reasons it can cause damage such as liver damage or liver cancer.
It also means that PFAS can build up in things such as fish, and if that fish are eaten, then it builds up in the animal that eats it, too. PFAS continues to build up throughout the environment, and consequently the effects of PFAS also builds up. This cycle can only be broken by trying to actively remove it, because it will not degrade.
For fish, people are advised to eat fewer fish that come from Michigan waters, because it can build up PFAS in their body. They are also directed to avoid any fish that are found in areas that have a lot of PFAS, such as specific lakes, or areas that are downriver from sites of significant contamination.
For the fish themselves, PFAS contamination has been observed to lead to shorter bodies in fish. Fish are also seen with increasing mutations. They have extra fins, spikes, and warped bodies. Because it is not known how else these fish might be impacted, it is not wise to eat them. Many of the fish are also experiencing reproductive issues, which means they aren’t able to reproduce in the numbers that fish farms would need to sustain themselves. Many fish farms have been impacted because of this.
It isn’t just fish that have been impacted by PFAS. They’ve also seen animals that drink from the same water experiencing reproductive issues or birth-related issues, going blind, or getting bloated and obese. These symptoms mirror the symptoms that people generally see when they experience PFAS contamination. PFAS can build up in the organs and cause a variety of issues in all types of animals that are exposed to PFAS contaminated water.
The government is working to reduce PFAS contamination through filters, which is the only realistic way to do so. Until PFAS is removed from the environment and PFAS is more strictly controlled, however, it may be an on-going problem.
PFAS in Bottled Water
Despite PFAS being clearly dangerous, there are PFAS in food, PFAS in food packaging, and PFAS in food wrappers. PFAS stands for polyfluoroalkyl substances, of which two of the most common are PFOS and PFOA. PFAS was introduced in the 40s and became immediately widespread, and because it is such a useful chemical, it’s still used very frequently. PFAS resists water, so it has been used to create water-resistant and stain-resistant products.
The major concern about PFAS is that they are “forever chemicals,” which means once they are introduced into a system, they remain there for some time. 99 percent of Americans have PFAS in their body, and this number can continue to grow. There are PFAS in drinking water Massachusetts and Michigan, PFAS around many military bases, and a PFAS water contamination map will show that the problem is significant in many major areas in America. PFAS can cause health issues in both people and animals, and has become a major environmental concern. The PFAS meaning in construction relates to a chemical that is extremely useful, such as for things like foam that can fight fire.
But casually, people may be more concerned about PFAS in things like bottled water. A PFAS water test shows that it’s in a lot of ground water, and it may not always be completely removed. When tested, concerning levels of PFAS were found in bottled water brands such as Spring Hill. The issue is that legal limits are still being debated, so people may find that PFAS will show up in their bottled water or in their food. And because PFAS do build up over time, these PFAS limits may not be enough to truly protect individuals.
PFAS end up in bottled water, drinking water, food packaging, wrappers, and food, because there are amounts that are accepted by the regulatory bodies. Particularly, PFAS end up in food wrappers that need to resist oils and water. People are individually exposed to very small amounts of this chemical which meet industry standards, but again, because these are “forever chemicals” they do build up in other areas of the environment.
With new construction, contamination maps can be used to identify areas of dangerous contamination. Michigan has the most PFAS contaminated sites in the United States. For some, it may not be an immediate concern. For others, it can be extremely alarming because of the fact that PFAS build up over time.
PFAS Contamination Michigan
The PFAS Michigan map 2019 shows an extraordinary number of locations with PFAS in groundwater. It’s not the only state that does this: the PFAS contamination map Pennsylvania is very similar. But Michigan has a lot of water, which means that the PFAS Michigan Lakes, PFAS Michigan Ann Arbor, and PFAS Michigan Huron River impact is greater than it might be in other areas. PFAS is found in lakes and rivers, which invariably leads to PFAS being in the water supply, as well as PFAS being consumed by animals around the area. Particularly, PFAS can be found in fish, and the PFAS found in fish can ultimately be consumed by people.
For Michigan and Pennsylvania, PFAS contamination is on-going. The issue with PFAS contamination is that it is a forever chemical; it’s a persistent chemical that continues to remain within the environment, circulating within water, and being introduced to people and animals. Once contaminating people and animals, PFAS can build up and cause issues such as liver disease or cancer. Furthermore, PFAS can cause issues such as birth defects. In fish and other animals, it has been seen to cause mutations.
But because PFAS will not biodegrade on its own, it has to be actively removed from the supply. Many are working towards reducing the amount of PFAS that is introduced both on a commercial and individual level, as well as removing the amount of PFAS that is in the groundwater through filtration. Conscientious effort is required. PFAS has been used since the 1940s and is still being actively used because it is a useful chemical.
Further regulations may be needed on PFAS. While there are minimum doses for PFAS, PFAS remains in bottled water, food wrappers, and other consumable items, because it is allowed in small quantities. But the fact that it is a persistent chemical alters this somewhat, because even in low doses, it can build up in areas such as Michigan and Pennsylvania. Over time, it’s likely that the amount of allowed PFAS will be reduced.
If you’re interested in how Encamp helps EHS managers deliver consistent processes and first-rate compliance programs, learn more at our free webinar.