PFAS is a group of manufacturing chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer goods since the 1940s because of their beneficial properties. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been used and studied more extensively than others. For example, PFOA and PFOS are the two most commonly used in the PFAS group.
PFOA and PFAS have been replaced by other PFAS in the United States in recent years. A common feature of PFAS concern is that many of them break down very slowly and can accumulate in humans, animals, and the environment over time. PFAS present in our drinking water, soil, air, and food, as well as in materials found in our homes and workplaces, including:
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- Drinking water – in a general drinking water system and personal drinking water well.
- Land and water in or near landfills – Landfills, landfills, and hazardous waste, as covered by the federal Superfund program and the Resources Conservation and Restoration Act.
- Extinguishing Foam – in aqueous film-forming foam (or AFFF) used to extinguish flammable liquid-based fires. The foam is used in training and emergency response at airports, shipyards, military bases, fire training facilities, chemical plants, and refineries.
- Chemical manufacturing or manufacturing facilities that produce or use PFAS – for example in chrome plating, electronics, and some textile and paper mills.
Due to its wide production and use, as well as its ability to move and survive in the environment, studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that most people in the United States have been exposed to certain PFAS. Most known exposures are relatively low, but some can be high, especially when people are exposed to concentrated sources for long periods. Some PFAS chemicals can build up in the body over time.