Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of human-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. These chemicals are used to make household and commercial products that resist heat and chemical reactions and repel oil, stains, grease and water. PFAS chemicals include PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid).
PFAS are found in people, wildlife and fish all over the world. Some PFAS do not break down easily and therefore stay in the environment for a very long time, especially in water. Some PFAS can stay in people’s bodies for a long time.
PFAS contamination may be in drinking water, food, indoor dust, some consumer products, and workplaces. Most non-worker exposures occur through drinking contaminated water or eating food that contains PFAS. Although some types of PFAS are no longer used, some products may still contain PFAS:
- Food packaging materials
- Nonstick cookware
- Stain-resistant carpets and fabrics
- Water resistant clothing
- Cleaning products
- Paints, varnishes and sealants
- Firefighting foam
Some scientific studies suggest that certain PFAS may affect different systems in the body. Although more research is needed, some studies in people have shown that certain PFAS may:
- Affect growth, learning and behavior of babies and older children
- Lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- Interfere with the body’s natural hormones
- Increase cholesterol levels
- Affect the immune system
- Increase the risk of cancer
Vermont’s health advisory level for the combination of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water is 20 ppt (parts per trillion). That means that the sum of PFOA and PFOS levels should not exceed 20 ppt in your drinking water.
If PFOA and PFOS exceed the drinking water level, you should not use your water for drinking, food preparation, cooking, brushing teeth, preparing infant formula, or any other manner of ingestion. Use bottled water instead or water from a known safe source. Do not use water containing PFOA and PFOS over 20 ppt to water your garden. The PFOA and PFOS could be taken up by the vegetables.
PFOA Contamination in Drinking Water Response
In early 2016, the State initiated an investigation and response regarding PFOA-contamination of drinking water wells in Bennington and North Bennington, Vermont. Learn about the PFOA response