There is an old saying that “nothing lasts forever.” However, I am going to suggest that whoever wrote that knew nothing about PFAS. PFAS are now called the “forever chemicals” because they are super resistant to chemical, biological, and thermal degradation. The actual name of these man-made compounds are Perfluorooctanic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).
PFAS comprise thousands of compounds that have been used in the production of the following items:
- Teflon and Non-Stick Cookware
- Candy Wrappers
- Fast Food Wrappers and Packaging
- Stain Resistant Products
- Microwave Popcorn Bags
- Firefighting Foam
- Pizza Boxes
- Eye Makeup
- Nail Polish
- Paints, Sealants, and Varnishes
- Cleaning Products
- Dental Floss
- Water-Resistant Clothing
- Shampoo & Conditioners
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced it will begin regulating PFOA and PFOS under the PFAS Action Plan. Prior to this announcement, the USEPA had a nonbinding health advisory threshold in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS. Some say that number is way too high. In response to this, some states with PFAS contamination have set more stringent PFAS limits, which means regulations and policies are changing every day.
Here is an infographic complements of the Riverside, California Government on the Sources of PFAS in your life:
It was in the 1930s that Teflon was discovered, and it was used in the Manhattan Project as part of the development of the atomic bomb. In the 1950s Teflon non-stick products began to be commercialized and in the 1960s Aqueaous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) [came into being.
In a quote in the abovementioned paper, it states:
Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is highly effective foam intended for fighting high-hazard flammable liquid fires. AFFF products are typically formed by combining hydrocarbon foaming agents with fluorinated surfactants. When mixed with water, the resulting solution achieves the interfacial tension characteristics needed to produce an aqueous film that spreads across the surface of a hydrocarbon fuel to extinguish the flame and to form a vapor barrier between the fuel and atmospheric oxygen to prevent re-ignition. This film formation is the defining feature of AFFF.
There are two major classes of firefighting foams: Class A and Class B. Class A foams were developed in the 1980s for fighting wildfires. They are also used to fight structure fires. Class B foams are any firefighting foams that have been designed to effectively extinguish flammable and combustible liquids and gases; petroleum greases, tars, oils and gasoline; and solvents and alcohols.
PFAS has become so prevalent that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, that it is a fact that 95-100% of the population have them in their blood. That beckons the question “What are the probable health effects of PFAS?”
There is evidence that PFAS have a probable cancer link in the gastrointestinal system, liver, and kidneys. Several studies have shown they lead to a weakened immune system due to a decreased response to vaccines. PFAS may also cause reproductive system issues including testicular cancer and decreased fertility. The endocrine system may be at risk as well as PFAS could cause thyroid disease. When it comes to development, PFAS may lead to reduced birth weight, skeletal abnormalities, and altered puberty. It has been determined that there are probable links between PFAS exposure and these diseases:
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Ulcerative colitis
- Thyroid disease
- High cholesterol
Can PFAS be Absorbed Through the Skin?
The jury is still out on this, although some experiments with mice indicate that it is possible for PFAS to be absorbed through the skin. A study sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published in February 2020 suggests PFAS may be absorbed through the skin as well. However, the highest levels of exposure to PFAS comes from ingestion of these chemicals from water contaminated with these chemicals.
Until recently, many felt that skin absorption was not the primary route of exposure to PFAS, and it might not be, however, it does appear to be major route of exposure and thus, just a treatment system that treats the drinking water for PFAS might be ill advised. However, if it is not practical, cost effective or unaffordable, then treating the drinking water for PFAS is certainly better than no treatment whatsoever.
Systems we recommend ResinTech SIR-110-HP which is a chloride form perchlorate, nitrate, and PFAS selective gel strong base anion resin. The HP designation means it is Gold Seal Certified by the WQA for use in potable water applications. Its unique functionality greatly increases the selectivity for nitrate while greatly decreasing the interference from sulfate ions. SIR-110-HP is recommended for the removal of perchlorate, nitrate, and most PFAS compounds.
Note: Single use ion exchange resins loaded with PFAS must be disposed of in a responsible manner. In the absence of data on the leachability of PFAS from used resins over time, landfilling is not recommended. The current recommendation for spent resin that contains PFAS is disposal by high temperature incineration. It is the users’ responsibility to ensure disposal follows applicable local regulatory guidelines.
Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) - EPA researcher Thomas Speth says, “GAC can be 100 percent effective for a period of time, depending on the type of carbon used, the depth of the bed of carbon, flow rate of the water, the specific PFAS you need to remove, temperature, and the degree and type of organic matter as well as other contaminants, or constituents, in the water.”
For example, GAC works well on longer-chain PFAS like PFOA and PFOS, but shorter chain PFAS like Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) and Perfluorobutyrate (PFBA) do not adsorb as well.
Another form of carbon which is sometimes utilized is Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC) which is the same material as GAC, but it is smaller in size, actually “powder like.” PAC units can be used for Point-of-Use applications, such as a sink, but it cannot be used for a whole house applications.
PAC is not as efficient or economical as GAC at removing PFAS. Speth says, “Even at very high PAC doses with the very best carbon, it is unlikely to remove a high percentage PFAS; however, it can be used for modest percent removals. If used, however, there is an additional problem with what to do with the sludge that contains adsorbed PFAS.”
Enpress makes the Pioneer Whole House, Lead, Cyst and PFAS Removal System which also successfully removes these chemicals and is installed where the water line enters your home, business or restaurant. This system has been tested and third-party certified as required in the NSF/ANSI P473 standard for PFOA/PFOS, along with NSF/ANSI 53 standard for the reduction of lead and cysts. It is rated at a peak flow of 8 GPM, but like any water treatment device, lower flow rates are advisable. As it’s name indicates, it is for “Point-of-Entry” or whole house applications. In larger homes, custom homes or estate home, multiple systems may be required, plumbed in parallel to handle the flow rate.
Reverse Osmosis Membrane Filtration (RO) – High pressure membrane filtration, including nanofiltration and reverse osmosis are extremely effective at removing PFAS. Of course, reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are much “tighter” than nanofiltration membranes, so it only stand to reason that RO will reject a higher level of PFAS than nanofiltration (NF). RO membranes are typically able to remove 90 to 98% of PFAS including the “harder to remove short chain PFAS.”
RO does remove the hardness minerals as well as the sodium, which the NF Membranes are not adept at removing. It used to be that people worried about removing minerals from the water, but now, of course, people realize that water is not a significant source of minerals in the first place and with the advent of “remineralization and alkaline options” such as US Water Systems Livation Hydration Technology, there are absolutely no worries whatsoever about removing the minerals from the water.
However, not only is RO adept at removing PFAS from the water, but reverse osmosis is recognized at the single method that removes the widest spectrum of contaminants of any water treatment process. While it does an outstanding job at removing PFAS, it also removes Chromium 6, Arsenic, Lead, Nitrate and plethora of other contaminants. In fact, it likely removes contaminants we are not even aware of. Of all the technologies to remove PFAS, Reverse Osmosis is going to remove the most, day-in and day-out. Additionally, GAC filtration is a key part of the Reverse Osmosis Process and in extreme PFAS cases, US Water Systems couples GAC Filtration, Reverse Osmosis, and Anion Exchange Resin Technology to provide an impenetrable barrier to PFAS and a plethora of other contaminants.
A typical “whole house reverse osmosis system” looks like this and includes the following technology:
- Carbon Filtration to remove many chemicals and contaminants
- Anti-Scalant Injection to protect Membranes from scale
- Ultraviolet Disinfection
- Pressure Boosting
- Storage Tank
Our whole house Defender Reverse Osmosis Systems are truly “commercial grade” and are built in the USA by American Craftsman to last for 20 years. We have the best warranty in the business and use only the highest quality materials, including stainless steel centrifugal pumps, not some diaphragm or rotary vane pumps for lightweight applications. If you do not use a TRUE “commercial grade” whole house reverse osmosis system from US Water Systems, then our systems may likely be the second one you purchase.
If you are not sure what you need, call one of our Master Water Specialists today for the answers you need – 800-608-8792.