Chemical Water Contamination: PFAS, PFOA, PFOS, POPs Regulations
What are PFAS and What are the Health Risks?
What are PFAS? Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as “PFAS”, are man-made chemicals that include PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate). These chemicals are also commonly described as POPs (persistent organic pollutants) or “forever chemicals” because the robust nature of their structure means they remain in the environment for over 1,000 years.
The first PFAS were invented in the 1930’s and were initially seen as a beneficial chemical, widely used in nonstick pans and waterproof coatings. PFAS was developed into a highly effective way of combating petroleum fires using fire-retardant foam. Now, PFAS are present in a wide range of products from oil-resistant food packaging to stain resistant household fabrics and corrosion resistant metals.
According to the EPA, POPs and PFAS chemicals are carcinogenic and harmful to human health. Some health effects are:
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Thyroid disease
- Developmental effects
- Kidney and liver damage
Figure: SiliconExpert’s Compliance Management dashboard with source documentation
What are the PFAS Regulations?
Beginning in 2001, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was formed to study the effects of PFAS on wildlife and human health. Since then, the United States has signed the Stockholm Convention in 2022 and the European Union has enacted a POPs Regulation (No. 2019/1021) to ban or restrict the use of POPs in both chemical products and articles.