Is PFAS A Concern In Your Municipality?
A growing concern for Houston.
PFAS water contamination impacts residents all over Houston, which have all been tested to show levels of PFAS in the water.
The problem with PFAS and similar contaminants is that, until recently, few people knew or understood what they are. Compounding this issue, PFAS have become nearly ubiquitous in our environment.
It started in the early 1940s, when water and heat-resistant chemicals containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances were engineered to help create non-stick products (Teflon), fire retardants, and other common consumer goods. What wasn’t understood at the time, however, was that PFAS Teflon and other products using PFAS wouldn’t naturally decay in nature, or the human body.
Known as bioaccumulation, this chemical characteristic means any amount absorbed into our bodies – through eating or drinking – stays in our bodies. Since we have no way of removing or disposing of these chemicals, they’ve earned the ominous nickname, ‘forever chemicals.’ As a result, most PFAS have been phazed out of use in this country, but they remain prevalent in the environment and often that includes our water supply.
Is My Water Contaminated?
Certain areas have a higher propensity for PFAS-contaminated water. For example if you live near an airport or a firefighter training facility where many of these chemicals have historically been used, there’s a good chance they’re still found in relatively high concentrations. Areas around manufacturing centers also commonly have elevated levels of PFAS, since they were used in the production of carpet, food packaging and production, and many other consumer goods.
PFAS and PFOAS have even been found in areas removed from this kind of activity since they persist in the environment. Studies show that as much as 98% of the population register some level of PFAS in their bodies.
The best way to know if you have PFAS-contaminated water is to have your home’s water tested. With a free home water test from Culligan, you’ll get results back in as little as a few minutes, and your local Culligan Man can review the results with you to help you understand what you’re dealing with, and how to treat it if necessary.
Remove and Prevent PFAS Contamination
There may not be any ways to prevent PFAS contamination in the environment, but you can make sure the water you’re drinking is PFAS free. If there is good news regarding PFAS water contamination, it’s that they can be treated and removed from water with the right filtration. For example, several methods, like carbon filtration, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis water treatment effectively remove PFAS from water.
Once again, your local Culligan can help you understand whether you have PFAS in your water, and if they’re at a level that you should consider treating them with a drinking water system or a whole-house filtration system. Contact us today to schedule your free home water test to turn on the safest, best tasting water right at home.
As far as water contaminants in the Greater Houston area go, PFOA in water is a relatively newer concept than other issues, but is something to watch moving forward. PFOA, the most notable substance of the family, was found to be a part of the manufacturing process of Teflon. The EPA sued DuPont in 2005 for failing to report a health risk to both humans and the environment. The company paid a $10.25 million settlement.
Teflon is still a widely criticized entity, as a new documentary, “The Devil We Know,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and a follow-up piece was done by the Houston Times shortly thereafter.
Also called “C8,” PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population, though it is in the low sub-parts-per-billion range. The company that invented PFOA and PFOS, Minnesota-based industrial conglomerate 3M, stopped producing the substance in 2002. Since, there has shown to have been a steady decline of PFOA in the bloodstream of humans.
Where is PFOA found?
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Until 2002, PFOA and PFOS were integral in producing goods which qualities repel dirt, grease, water and stains. These contaminants can be found in the manufacturing process of a variety of products, including non-stick cookware, carpet-care liquids, treated apparel, upholstery or textiles, sealants, dental floss, floor wax and non-woven medical garments. Though PFTE non-stick cookware was proven to have PFOA levels, a recent study found levels that ranged from undetectable to 4.3 parts per billion, and it is not currently considered a major pathway for PFOA.
Just last year, United Nations experts recommended banning PFOA globally at the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Will the United States follow suit based on recent outbreaks in California and Michigan, in particular? Manufacturers are proceeding with caution in producing goods containing PFOA. However, this contaminant has a long shelf life once it makes its way into the water supply.
Problems With PFOA
The two biggest issues with these substances is that they don’t break down in the environment, and are fairly ubiquitous, known to be located in food, drinking water, outdoor and indoor air, dust and food packaging. Because of their strong molecular structure, PFOAs are more difficult to break down than organic chemicals.
According to a study from 2002-2005, “people who lived in the PFOA-contaminated area around DuPont’s Washington Works facility were found to have higher levels of PFOA in their blood from drinking water. People that drank more tap water, ate locally grown fruits and vegetables, or ate local meat, were all associated with having higher PFOA levels. Residents who used carbon filter systems had lower PFOA levels.” Studies have found that using carbon-activated filters can reduce PFOA’s by up to 60%.
Recommendations by the EPA
The EPA has issued a “Health Advisory” for PFOA and PFOS, but this does not amount to any actual forced federal regulations on municipalities to control and monitor them. The EPA has established health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion. What does this mean? To compare 70 parts per trillion, think of a drop of ink in a backyard pool. According to its website, “EPA’s health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS offers a margin of protection for all Americans throughout their life from adverse health effects resulting from exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.”
A few of the adverse health conditions a lifetime of exposure can lead to are developmental effects in children, kidney and testicular cancer and immunodeficiency disorders.
For more information, check out the supporting documentation here.
Where Culligan Can Help
We offer two testing options at Culligan. Our basic water testing is free. When the testing is complete and the results have been determined, we will contact you with our customized recommendations for eliminating any contamination that may be in your home’s water supply.
Immediately test the water in your home if you experience any of the following:
- Water tastes “off”
- Water is not clear
- Water has an unpleasant odor
- Water bills increase unexpectedly