The Basics: Residents in Bucks and Montgomery Counties have probably heard about the class of contaminants referred to as PFCs (perfluorochemicals or perfluorinated compounds) or PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances). The most notorious of these contaminants are PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid). PFCs can be found in a number of products including:
- Teflon® (used widely on non-stick pans)
- grease resistant paper used for food wrapping (fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, candy wrappers)
- water resistant clothes (such as Gore-Tex®)
- cleaning products
- some personal care products (dental floss, shampoos, cosmetics)
- firefighting foam (1: ATSDR-Sources of Exposure to PFAS)
Firefighting foam containing PFOS/PFOA was used by the military bases in Warminster and Horsham (2: Bagenstone). This foam is suspected to be the source of the PFOS/PFOA water contamination in Warminster, Warrington, Horsham, and Willow Grove and has contaminated the drinking water of over 100,000 individuals (2: Bagenstone). Check out the Bucks County Courier Times for more up to date and in depth coverage. Certified Water Services performed PFCs testing and found PFCs (PFOS/PFOA) in water in Warminster, Warrington, Doylestown, Churchville, Richboro, Southampton, Ivyland, Jamison, Pipersville, Chalfont, Huntingdon Valley, Hatboro, and Perkasie.
Toxicology: “Adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), adverse immune effects, thyroid effects and disruption, and other adverse effects” are reported by the EPA’s review of the peer reviewed literature (3: EPA FACT SHEET PFOA & PFOS -2016).
The Big Problem: A major issue with PFCs is their biological persistence, or PFCs ability to resist the natural degradation processes that breaks down contaminants in the environment (4: ATSDR-ToxFAQs for Perfluoroalkyls). In other words, if PFCs get leeched into the soil from a source such as firefighting drills at a military base, a discarded carpet treated with Scotch Guard, or a fast food wrapper treated with a PFOA, they will last virtually indefinitely in the environment and may be spread out over a larger area (PFCs have been found in the Artic and open oceans) (4: ATSDR-ToxFAQs for Perfluoroalkyls).
The Bigger Problem: One of the scariest facts about PFOS & PFOA is their half-life. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states: “It takes approximately 4 years for the level in the body to go down by half, even if no more is taken in.” (5-ATSDR-Public Health Statement for Perfluoroalkyls). Just as a reference point the half-life of inorganic arsenic, which is commonly found in well water, is about 10 hours (6: ATSDR-Arsenic Toxicity).
Removal: Certified Water Services offers PFCs (PFOS/PFOA) removal from the drinking water with reverse osmosis drinking water systems or from the whole house water with twin GAC (granular activated carbon) systems. Post installation testing for PFCs (PFOS/PFOA) is included with the twin GAC systems to confirm the efficacy of the systems.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry- Sources of Exposure to PFAS- Retrieved from: atsdr.cdc.gov/pfc/sources_of_exposure.html on 02/23/2017.
- Bagenstone – PFOS/PFOA Water Contamination- Retrieved from: buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos/ on 02/22/2017.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency- FACT SHEET PFOA & PFOS Drinking Water Health Advisories (2016)- Retrieved from: EPA’s Updated Drinking water advisories PDF on 02/23/2017
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry-ToxFAQs for Perfluoroalkyls (2015)-Retrieved from: atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=1116&tid=237 on 02/23/2017.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry- Public Health Statement for Perfluoroalkyls- Retrieved from: atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1115&tid=237 on 02/23/2017
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry- Arsenic Toxicity What is the Biologic Fate of Arsenic in the Body? (2009)- Retrieved from: atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=1&po=9