Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) – The New Lead

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by Stephen Lester
Will our water ever be safe? A new group of chemicals is showing up in drinking water across the country; in Portsmouth, NH, Hoosick Falls, NY, Scottsdale, AZ, Colorado Springs, CO, Decatur, AL, Bucks County, PA and Cape Cod, MA to name a few places. These chemicals are called perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs.  
PFCs are common in many consumer products including teflon pans, fabric protectors, pizza boxes and ski wax, and are used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture. They first generated headlines in the 1990s when a DuPont plant that made teflon and related products was responsible for contaminating the drinking water of 70,000 people in Parkersburg, WV. Exposure to PFCs is linked to developmental delays in children, decreased fertility, increased cholesterol, changes in the immune system, and cancer (prostate, kidney and testicular).
One recent study1 from Harvard University School of Public Health estimates millions of Americans may be drinking water contaminated with PFCs, including  perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).  
Drinking water contamination by PFOA and PFOS stems from two main sources: factories that formerly manufactured or used these chemicals; and locations, including military bases, where they were used in firefighting foams. According to the EPA, both PFOA and PFOS are found at very low levels in the blood of the general population across the U.S.
Earlier this year, EPA updated its Health Advisory2 for PFOA and PFOS to 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for both compounds combined. However the researchers at Harvard believe this value is not adequately protective of the public3 and that 1 ppt is a more appropriate standard.4   
CHEJ has prepared fact sheets on the toxicity of these chemicals5 and how to interpret blood levels.6 Both were prepared as part of our work with the local residents in Portsmouth, NH. Please visit our website at to contact us if you have questions about PFCs including how to interpret test results.



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