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What are PFAS and why are they in the news? PFAS in drinking water pose serious long term health problems. Yet they are just now being discovered in water systems throughout the US. PFAS are just one of a group of chemical compounds causing grave health concerns. Low exposure to some PFAS chemicals has been linked to cancer, thyroid issues, and weakening childhood immunity.

Various forms of PFAs are present in rain throughout the planet which means they are now in everyone's drinking water.

"Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS and GenX chemicals. Since the 1940s, PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States." – USEPA

There are over 9000 different variations of PFA compounds. And, it turns out that EPA has been using a test to identify their presence that only identifies about 30 of those. So PFAs are much more prevalent than anyone, even the regulators, had imaginged. Sampling in a number of communities have shown widespread contamination that was previously unknown.

PFAs are common in water throughout the United States

Read this EPA document for a detailed description of these chemicals and they’re health effects. Here’s an excerpt from the following article: “Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animals.”

PFAs and their numerous sister compounds are common and have now been found in rain throughout the entire globe. This news comes after the discovery that USEPA had been using the wrong means to measure them. You can now assume the are in your water. A review  ofyour local water report can let you know if your utility has tested for them. Here's some basic information about PFAs from EPA:

The following map shows areas in the US with known PFA contamination

PFA Contamination in the United States


Recently CNN posted the following articles on PFAS in numerous cities in southern California. Because of the long term health effects this is an issue to take seriously. Therefore learn what you can to remove them from the water entering your home.  But first check, if you live in California, out these two links.

CNN article on PFAs in California drinking water:

The problem with PFA contamination of drinking water is national

As the map above illustrates cities around the country have PFAS in drinking water. Therefore, the action to take wherever you live is to check your local water quality report. This report is provided every year by your water supplier. It lists the regulated contaminants in your water. These reports are beginning to address the issue of PFAS and their associated compounds. You can often find these reports online. Learn how to find your water report here.


Removing PFAS from Drinking Water

If you live in a location where these contaminants are in your drinking water take action now. Whole house carbon filters will reduce the level of PFAS in water. A reverse osmosis system at the kitchen sink can eliminate them. Thus preventing you from ingesting them. Again, before you overreact be sure to confirm that PFAS are in your water.  Take these steps:

1) Look at the map above

2) Contact your water provider and ask for a water quality report or search for it online. You may contact me to interpret and discuss your water report during working hours.

3) If they PFAs or PFOAs are present take immediate steps to stop drinking them. Purchase water treated with reverse osmosis from your local supermarket until you can install Sweetwater's custom reverse osmosis systems.

NOTE: As of mid August 2022 a team of scientists has discovered a way to cause PFAs and related compounds to breakdown. This, as luck would have it, is a relatively easy chemical procedure. While not yet available or fully developed it will no doubt be installed at water treatment plants in the coming years. Learn more here.


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James P McMahon, ecologist


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