PFOA and PFOS
What is it?
The chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, and perfluorooctanesulfonate or PFOS are man-made chemicals that became widely used in household products and industrial settings as early as the 1950’s. PFOA and PFOS are sometimes referenced in a group of similar chemicals called perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Both PFOA and PFOS were historically used in firefighting foams due to their effectiveness at quickly extinguishing petroleum based fires. Because they have a unique ability to repel oil, grease, water and heat, these two substances are used in many common products that we use regularly. PFOA and PFOS have been used to make non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and furniture, water-resistant clothing, heat-resistant paper/cardboard food packaging (like microwave popcorn and pizza boxes), and some personal care products.
PFOA and PFOS are persistent in the environment, and PFOS has been shown to bioaccumulate in wildlife. Health agencies are working to understand the health effects of low level, long term exposure. Some studies suggest that these chemicals may affect cholesterol levels, thyroid function, birth weight, liver function, infant development, and the immune system.
What EPA is doing?
These substances are considered emerging contaminants and are not currently regulated. However, in May 2016 the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a drinking water Health Advisory for PFOA and PFOS. If these chemicals are measured in drinking water above 0.07 micrograms per liter (µg/L), also known at 70 parts per trillion (ppt), then the EPA recommends taking action to reduce exposure. Current evidence points to diet, dust intake, and air as making up approximately 80% of a person’s exposure to PFOA and PFOS with drinking water accounting for about 20% of a person’s exposure.
What is Maine doing?
Information about sites where PFOA and PFOS may be detected in Maine will be available here so you may stay informed about this activity in our state. The following are locations in Maine where there is ongoing work to determine the extent of PFOA and PFOS presence in the environment.