EPA Releases Findings of PFCs In Drinking Water

by | Mar 7, 2017

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requires public drinking water systems to sample for emerging contaminants. Since 2013, operators have sampled for the contaminant perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and other per- and poly- fluorinated compounds (PFCs).

PFCs in Drinking Water

The EPA recently reported that PFCs occur at concentrations greater than the standard in 94 water systems that serve over 6.5 million people throughout the United States.

PFCs are associated with the manufacturer of Teflon™, greaseproof food packaging and stain/waterproof resistant material, such as Goretex™. Between 2006 and 2015, over 95% of PFC use was phased out through a voluntary agreement between the USEPA and industry; however, low-level soil, water, and blood serum contamination remain as a legacy of its once widespread use.

Most Commonly Used PFC

PFOA, probably the most widely used of the PFC compounds, occurs in the environment as a fully fluorinated hydrocarbon chain consisting of eight carbon molecules with two fluorine molecules attached to each carbon.

PFOA molecule diagram

The very strong fluorine/carbon bond makes PFOA resistant to natural breakdown once released to the environment.

PFOA is fairly soluble in water, and because of the persistence of the fluorine-carbon bond, it can disperse widely through air or water. For example, PFOA has been found in the Arctic, hundreds if not thousands of miles from the nearest source.

Click the button below to see a summary table of statewide average detections of PFOA in drinking water greatly exceed the safe level established by the new research created by EWG.

View Table

Federal, state and private investigators are now investigating PFOC contamination in over 20 states. Prominently affected communities include Hoosick Falls, New York; North Bennington, Vermont; Parkersburg, West Virginia and 664 airports and fire training facilities.

Health Advisory Level for PFCs

Based on the widespread distribution of PFCs in drinking water and the environment, new toxicological studies that show developmental toxicity in mice pups and the transfer of PFCs in mammal breast milk, the USEPA released a lifetime drinking water Health Advisory (HA) of 0.07 micrograms per liter (µg/L).

The previous standard was 0.20 µ/L.

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