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An advisory committee is currently working on
creating the chemical action plan for PFAS.

See meeting agendas, notes, and other
documents related to the PFAS CAP
.

What are PFASs?

PFASs are a group of per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances. In the past, Ecology and others have referred to this group of chemicals as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), but that term is no longer being used because of a lack of specificity and confusion with perfluorocarbons (also PFCs), a key greenhouse gas.

PFASs are very stable manmade chemicals that remain in the environment for a long time without breaking down (persistent) and some of them build up in people and the environment (bioaccumulation). Used for decades to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that are resistant to oil, stains, grease, and water, they are still used today in many applications due to their durability, heat resistance, UV resistance, and anti-corrosive properties. Currently known PFAS uses include:

  • Carpets (homes, businesses, cars, and planes)
  • Textiles (outdoor clothing and equipment)
  • Fire-fighting foam used to put out petroleum fires (aerospace, oil transport, and oil refineries)
  • Paper wrappers for fast food and microwave popcorn
  • Tubing, seals, wire insulation, and other equipment for cars and planes
  • Building materials (metal roof coatings, paint adhesives, and sealants)
  • Pesticides
  • Cleaning agents
  • Printing inks
  • Releasing agents
  • Metal plating industry
  • Fuel additives

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that in the United States, textiles and apparel account for about half of the volume of consumer product uses. Carpet and carpet care products account for the next largest share followed by coatings (including those for paper products).

Exposure

PFASs are not manufactured in Washington. They enter our environment through consumer and industrial products that contain the chemicals and through atmospheric deposition. The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has documented widespread exposure to PFASs in people throughout the U.S.

In 2008, Ecology conducted a study to assess levels of PFASs in freshwater areas of Washington. The study looked at 13 PFASs in a range of environmental media including surface water, wastewater treatment plant effluent, fish tissue (fillet and liver), and osprey eggs. The study found widespread occurrence of PFASs in Washington in all media. Concentrations were generally within or below the range of values recorded at other U.S. locations. PFAS concentrations increased from water to fish to osprey. More recently, PFASs have been detected in drinking water across the U.S., including Washington State. There are federal cleanup sites for PFASs, often associated with fire-fighting practices and disposal of consumer products. Ecology is doing a follow-up study in 2016. See the project plan.

Health Effects

PFASs are associated with adverse health effects. Most of the research has been done on perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and a related compound perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); toxicity of other PFASs vary. Studies in animals show that exposure to PFOS, PFOA and some other PFASs can affect liver function, reproductive hormones, development of offspring, and mortality. As with most chemicals, the toxicity in humans is less understood. Near a factory that produced PFOA in West Virginia, a panel of experts investigated the effects on people living nearby. They found probable links to high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

PFAS Chemical Action Plan

Ecology and the Department of Health (DOH) are developing a Chemical Action Plan (CAP) for PFASs. Preliminary information has been gathered to help form an advisory committee. The committee began meeting in winter 2016 and will continue to assist with collecting information and identifying solutions. The draft PFAS CAP is expected to be ready for public review and comment and then finalized in 2017.

More Information

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
C8 Science Panel
FluoroCouncil
Ecology study