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If you have opened any national water quality articles, you have no doubt heard of an emerging contaminant concern called per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances or acid (PFOS and PFOA), a class of manmade chemicals used in firefighting, stain resistance, water repellants, and other industrial applications since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS are problematic due to their long half-lives, meaning they can bioaccumulate in the environment and in our bodies.
PFOS and PFOA were originally created by 3M in 1947 as a stain repellant, but cases of its health concerns hit the media when the PFOA was detected in children who had been near ground zero during 9/11. Now, the hunt for contamination issues has spread across the country paying special attention to some landfills receiving waste since the 1950s and facilities using aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) such as fire-training facilities, civilian and military airports, petroleum terminals, and refineries. While the U.S. no longer manufactures PFOA and PFOS, goods that may contain these chemicals are still imported.
Studies have estimated 95 percent of the U.S. population has been exposed to PFOS and have measurable concentrations in their blood. Human exposure can occur through ingestion, direct contact, inhalation, and occupational contact. PFOA and PFOS are linked to a number of health effects, including: liver damage; kidney damage; increased cholesterol levels; pregnancy-induced hypertension; certain types of cancer; increased risk of thyroid disease; increased risk of decreased fertility; increased risk of asthma diagnosis; decreased response to vaccines.