Even though you may not know exactly what PFAS are, you should at least be familiar with the name. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, refers to the over 3,000 manufactured chemicals that were a large part of production starting in the 1940s and 1950s. Two of the main compounds are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulphonate (PFOS).
PFOA and PFOS were popular compounds among manufacturing and industrial facilities, widely used for their capacity to deter water and grease. We find them in cleaning products, pesticides, paint, adhesives, carpets, firefighting foams, non-stick pans, and many other products that can be found in a typical home.
Because of their wide usage during the manufacturing periods, these chemicals are virtually everywhere in the environment. Despite being used in production for decades, the usage and deployment of these chemicals is being phased out because of the increasing health and environmental concerns.
Unfortunately, most studies into the health effects of PFOA and PFOS have not come until recently. While more research needs to be conducted to know more about the health effects on humans, scientists have discovered adverse health effects from experiments on laboratory animals.
Some potential effects on human health include thyroid dysfunctions, liver problems, immune disorders, and cholesterol changes. High levels of exposure to PFOA and PFOS may also lead to impaired fetal development, cardiovascular problems, and even cancer.
These chemicals have contaminated the environment for years because of their ubiquitous usage in manufacturing and industrial facilities. Large manufacturers often discharged significant amounts of chemicals, which harmed both the air and soil quality. Because these compounds are in the soil, they can contaminate the water, leading to greater health risks to the public.
The most common source of exposure to PFOA and PFOS is through drinking water. In areas that exceed normal levels of PFOA and PFOS, you can switch to bottled water or use water filters as a preventative method.
It is still difficult to foresee what long-term effects that PFOA and PFOS will have on our environment and on human health, but more studies are being conducted to find solutions and to limit the harm.