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Water Quality | What are PFAS -the “forever chemicals”?

What are PFAS -the “forever chemicals”?

The fluorinated chemicals called PFAS [per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances], are a class of synthetic, toxic and persistent chemicals used in thousands of consumer and industrial products and applications worldwide. PFAS use in the US dates back to 1940s

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), for example, are two of the most widely used and studied chemicals in the PFAS group. PFOA and PFOS have been replaced in the United States with other PFAS in recent years. The number of Americans exposed to PFAs from contaminated tap water is underestimated. A reported 110 million Americans water may be contaminated and other chemicals. According CDC nearly one in 4 Americans has PFAS and PFOS in their blood.

One common characteristic of concern of PFAS is that they are extremely resistant to degradation – the reason they are often described as “forever chemicals”. They can build up in people, animals, and the environment over time.  

Where PFAS’ are found or come from?

PFAS can be found in water, soil, air, and food as well in materials found in homes and offices. 

Drinking water – in public drinking water systems and private drinking water wells.

Soil and water at or near waste sites - at landfills, disposal sites, and hazardous waste sites.

Fire extinguishing foam - in aqueous film-forming foams (or AFFFs) used to extinguish flammable liquid-based fires.  

Manufacturing or chemical production facilities that produce or use PFAS – for example at chrome plating, electronics, and certain textile and paper manufacturers.

Food – for example in fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS and dairy products from livestock exposed to PFAS.

Food packaging – for example in grease-resistant paper, fast food containers/wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers.

Household products and dust – for example in stain and water-repellent used on carpets, upholstery, clothing, and other fabrics; cleaning products; non-stick cookware; paints, varnishes, and sealants.

Personal care products – for example in certain shampoo, dental floss, and cosmetics.

Biosolids – for example fertilizer from wastewater treatment plants that is used on agricultural lands can affect ground and surface water and animals that graze on the land.


Current research suggests that exposure to high levels of certain PFAS may lead to adverse health outcomes. Ongoing research is trying to better understand the health effects associated with low levels of exposure to PFAS over long periods of time, especially in children. Due to thousands of PFAS, it is difficult to determine health effects for all them. People who are more exposed to PFAS - Industrial workers involved in making or processing PFAS or people who live near these facilities. 

Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women.

Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.

Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.

Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response.

Interference with the body’s natural hormones.

Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity.


PFAS do not occur naturally in the environment, but they are found in increasing amounts in wildlife, fish, and humans. This trend is due to the nature of PFAS — these chemicals uniquely repel water, oil, and stains and do not break down quickly or easily. By design, PFAS has been deemed the “forever” chemical that accumulates gradually. 

The EPA has set a Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory level for PFAS at 70 parts per trillion (ppt), but that figure is the subject of heated debate in the scientific community. 


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) collected water samples from around the country and mapped them in a useful, interactive PFAS Contamination Map. According to the EWG, as of January 2021, more than 2,300 locations in 49 states are known to have PFAS contamination. If you think the drinking water in your home or private well could contain PFAS, it’s best to conduct a water test for confirmation.


It is increasingly becoming essential to filter water we consume. The best water filtration systems that reduce PFOS and PFOA concentrations in your drinking water by up to 98% are based on Reverse Osmosis [RO] technology. These systems also reduce or eliminate the majority of contaminants like microscopic level compounds, bacteria, viruses, chlorine, lead, and microorganisms. These are available as counter top or under the sink models. The filtered water is ideal for drinking and cooking.

Some owners believe that a RO based water purifier is expensive to maintain. However with proper monitoring of the system it need not be expensive. The TDSBot makes your RO System smart. It monitors water quality in real time, alert you for changes in quality, gives predictive maintenance alerts and most important it lets you know when to change filters based on water quality and volume of water filtered.

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