PFAS are found in many household and industrial products. Due to their resistant properties, they are commonly used in coatings to make items more durable.
PFAS have been found in:
- Non-stick cookware
- Toiletry items
- Food containers (such as fast food and candy wrappings, pizza boxes, and microwave popcorn bags)
- Waterproof and stainproof clothing, furniture, and carpets
- Fire-fighting foams
Chemical reaction-resistant coatings used in industrial processes
PFAS are manmade chemicals, meaning they do not occur naturally in the environment. However, their widespread use has resulted in PFAS being present in the environment and populations around the world. Research estimates that low levels of PFAS are in about 98% of Americans. Most Americans are exposed to PFAS through ingestion; this is a result of their use in common food-related and cooking products.
There are several locations under investigation where individuals are exposed to higher levels of PFAS than the EPA’s advised 70ppt. In these cases, PFAS have contaminated the public water supply or an individual’s private well at a level that poses potential health risks. These chemicals typically enter the water supply when material containing PFAS is used or spilled in the natural environment. When these high levels of PFAS are released, they leak into lakes and rivers or permeate the surface to enter groundwater resources. Consequently, certain areas where industrial activity or spills involving PFAS have taken place are at risk for contaminated drinking water. The most common sites for contamination are factories manufacturing with PFAS, firefighting training locations, military bases, and airports.
It should be noted that direct skin contact is not the primary form of exposure for PFAS and is not a serious health concern ; it is safe to bathe, swim, and otherwise touch PFAS-contaminated water. More information about PFAS exposure and health recommendations can be found on the ATSDR’s website.