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Forever Chemicals: Understanding PFAS and PFOS in Your Drinking Water

pfas and pfos


Imagine this: you turn on the tap for a refreshing glass of water, completely unaware that it might contain harmful chemicals. This is the reality for many people across the globe, thanks to a group of contaminants known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). This blog dives into the world of PFAS, specifically focusing on PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), a notorious member of this family.

What are PFAS and PFOS?

PFAS are a large group of man-made chemicals used in various industrial and consumer products for decades. Their unique properties – like repelling water, oil, and stains – make them ideal for everything from non-stick cookware to firefighting foams. However, these same properties also make them incredibly persistent in the environment, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” PFOS is a specific type of PFAS that has been phased out of production in the U.S. due to health concerns, but it can still be found in older products and the environment.

How Do PFAS and PFOS Get in Our Water?

PFAS contamination can occur through various pathways, including:

  • Industrial discharges: Manufacturing facilities using PFAS can release these chemicals into waterways.
  • Landfills: Landfills containing PFAS-laden products can leach contaminants into groundwater.
  • Wastewater treatment plants: While these plants can remove some PFAS, they may not be entirely effective for all types.
  • Runoff from treated surfaces: PFAS used in products like clothing and carpets can contaminate water during rain events.

Why Should You Be Concerned About PFAS and PFOS?

Exposure to PFAS, including PFOS, has been linked to various health problems, such as:

  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Developmental problems in children
  • Immune system issues
  • Thyroid problems
  • High cholesterol

Are You at Risk?

The level of PFAS contamination can vary significantly depending on your location and water source. Here’s how to assess your risk:

  • Public water systems: Many public water systems are now testing for PFAS and may provide information on their websites or annual reports.
  • Private wells: Private well owners should consider getting their water tested for PFAS.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resources: The EPA maintains a website with information on PFAS, including a map of known contamination sites.


What Can You Do?

If you’re concerned about PFAS in your drinking water, here are some steps you can take:

Contact NYS Department of Health at 518-402-7860 or email beei@health.ny.gov and let them know you have concerns about PFAS and PFOS in your water. They will be able to connect you to the correct DOH project manager.

Here is a link to the Connecticut State Department of Public Health that offers more information, letters, and telephone numbers to call at the bottom of the page: https://portal.ct.gov/dph/drinking-water/dws/per–and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances

Get your water tested by a certified lab that test for PFAS and PFOS (not all do): This is the first step to understanding your exposure level. IMPORTANT: Westfair Water Systems DOES NOT test for PFAS and/or PFOS.

Depending on the type of PFAS and contamination level, filtration systems like reverse osmosis may be effective.

The EPA and other organizations offer resources to stay updated on PFAS research and developments.

Bottom Line:

PFAS and PFOS are a growing concern for public health. By understanding these contaminants and taking proactive steps, you can minimize your exposure and protect yourself and your family. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to safeguarding your health and the quality of your drinking water.

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