What are PFAS chemicals? Is there a “safe” level for PFAS?
- What are PFAS chemicals and why are they harmful?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals, including PFOA, PFOS, GenX and many other chemicals. PFAS has been manufactured throughout the world since the 1940s.U.S. industries have phased out the production of PFOA and PFOS because of concerns for health risks. Instead, a replacement PFAS, such as GenX, is being used. Much is known about the risks of PFOS and PFOA, much less is known about the replacement PFAS that is being used in our country, all of which have ended up in our landfills.According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFOA and PFOS, the most studied of these chemicals, don’t break down in the human body or the environment. These chemicals can be absorbed and accumulated in the body, and remain for long periods of time. And with continued exposure, these chemicals will build up over time causing various health problems.
- What products that end up as trash contain PFAS?
A partial list below.
– Non-stick cookware (Teflon, SilverStone, more)
– Rain repellent clothing (GORE-TEX is one example)
– Soil resistant carpet and furniture (Stainmaster, Scotchgard, more)
– Fast food paper wrappings, pizza box liners
Is the State of Vermont doing enough to keep our rivers and lakes free of harmful “forever” chemicals?
While there is currently a Vermont State standard for “safe” levels of PFAS for drinking water, there is no standard for ambient, or surface water. In February of this year, the Agency of Natural Resources posted a proposal for developing a standard for a “safe” level of PFAS in our lakes and rivers. Act 21, passed by our State Legislature, requires that a standard is adopted by January, 2024. Through mediation, DUMP was able to stop treatment of the Coventry landfill leachate at the Newport Waste Water Treatment facility until the standard is adopted and the water discharged from the facility complies with the standard.
(Header photo by Jeff Gerade, 2018)