Throughout New England and across the nation, state and local officials, health departments, and water utilities, including Aquarion, have focused their attention on a group of man-made chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have been detected in drinking water. PFAS are widely used in consumer products (e.g. nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets) and have numerous industrial applications (e.g. firefighting foam). PFAS are pervasive and persistent once released into the environment.
Explore below to learn more about PFAS.
The technical name for these compounds are Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). Formerly described as perfluorochemicals (PFCs), PFAS is a better scientific and regulatory acronym because it refers only to the compounds found in water.
PFAS are chains of carbon atoms with fluorine atoms attached at most (poly-fluoro-alkyl-substances) or all (per-fluoro-alkyl-substances) of available carbon bonds. The figure below shows per-fluoro-octanoic-acid (PFOA) one of the more common PFAS.
PFAS are a large group of manufactured compounds that are widely used to make everyday products that repel water and oil and are resistant to heat and chemical reactions. Teflon, Stainmaster, and Gore Tex are some of the common trade names for PFAS. PFAS are used in waterproof and stain proof fabrics, non-stick cookware, food packaging, automotive waxes, fire-fighting foams, and in a variety of other industries, including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics.
Two specific compounds, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are released into the environment when products containing Teflon and other PFAS-bearing materials are made, used, or discarded. PFOS is no longer manufactured in the United States, and PFOA production has been reduced and will soon be eliminated; however, foreign-made products may still contain these compounds.
PFAS have been found in water, air, soil, house dust, and blood. People are exposed to PFAS through food, consumer products, and indoor and outdoor air.
Treatment technologies exist that can remove PFAS from water using granular activated carbon, ion exchange, and other methods.
Aquarion currently does not have these facilities in place but is conducting studies to prepare for any future regulatory requirements that will require PFAS removal. The industrial-scale facilities needed to remove PFAS will require several years of design and construction before they are operational.
For home use, some countertop water filters will remove PFAS. Please be aware that spent filters have high concentrations of PFAS; these filters should not be disposed of as solid waste because this will recycle PFAS back into the environment. Consult with vendors of home water treatment systems for more information about filter disposal.
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