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What do PFAS mean to you?

Posted on March 02, 2017

PFAS – The Ubiquitous Emerging Contaminant

Risk Management for perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS)

Roux Associates has been monitoring regulatory developments and public perception regarding emerging contaminants. One group of chemicals that could have a significant effect on business is perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

Lately, state and federal agencies are taking aggressive measures to regulate these substances. Recently, New Jersey announced it will promulgate a drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) of 0.013 parts per billion (ppb) and for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) of 0.014 ppb—the equivalent of about a tablespoonful in 1,000 swimming pools. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is undertaking a study of water supplies across the nation to assess the prevalence of PFAS in advance of developing federal MCLs. The regulations are coming.

PFAS are substances that are almost completely soluble in water, do not breakdown, and are extremely persistent. Toxicological studies estimate that they can reside in the human body for as long as four years. The EPA has identified human exposure from direct contact with tainted water and soil, and ingestion of food.

A recent study identified fluorine in fast food wrappers. Though not comprehensive or significantly conclusive, the last line of the study summary is prescient regarding the future perception of PFAS: “The prevalence of fluorinated chemicals in fast food packaging demonstrates their potentially significant contribution to dietary PFAS exposure and environmental contamination during production and disposal.”

Public perception can create very strong emotions with far-reaching consequences. As a case in point, in early November 1959, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare informed the public that a small portion of the cranberry crop from the Pacific Northwest tested positive for an herbicide. The fresh cranberry market collapsed overnight. Remember benzene in Perrier sparkling water in the 1980s or, more recently, BPA from plastic products?

What does this mean to you? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my water supply contain PFAS?
  • Is my equipment coated with non-stick materials?
  • Is my equipment contributing PFAS to my product?
  • What would happen if PFAS were in my product?

Roux Associates is on the forefront of the PFAS issue and can help you to develop a strategy to address these questions before they become a significant issue, or document that your product is PFAS-free. For more information, please click on the button below.