PFAS are a group of more than 3,000 man-made chemicals that are fire, oil, grease, water and stain resistant, and are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products, including non-stick cookware, stain repellant, dental floss, cleaning products, and cosmetics.
Over the last 70 years, PFAS, like Teflon, have been used around the world to enhance everyday products. Exposure to humans can occur by eating, inhaling, or even touching the product.
Some PFAS are now known to be bad for human health. While there are hundreds of banned PFAS, there are thousands more in existence, and more than 600 still used commercially in the United States.
PFAS do not break down or go away in the environment. In fact, these compounds have been found in rainwater samples, and one or more PFAS is found in the blood of most Americans, at low levels.
However, this does not mean they will cause a health problem. Research is ongoing to understand the human health effects from the compounds, and the EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe the health effects from exposure to low environmental levels of PFAS as uncertain.
The main sources of PFAS contamination in water are industries that make or use PFAS in their products, and military bases and airfields that have conducted fire-fighting training. The PFAS gets into wastewater and stormwater and runs off into streams, rivers or groundwater.
In 2014, DC Water and other utilities that use water from the Potomac River tested drinking water supplies for several PFAS. No detectable levels of these compounds were found in D.C.’s drinking water. These test results were published at dcwater.com/UCMR3results.
Newer, more precise methods of testing have been developed since the 2014 testing to detect very low levels of PFAS.
The Environmental Working Group recently released a study which detected PFAS in District drinking water at levels well below any established EPA health advisory for these compounds.
Our top priority at DC Water is public health and safety, and ensure tap water continues to meet all Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
DC Water will continue to advocate for and monitor continued research around PFAS, and stands ready to work with EPA and environmental groups to best protect public health.
- Read labels and try to avoid using products with PFAS, like some non-stick pans, paints, degreasers, and fire-fighting foams, as well as consumer products like water-proof clothing, certain cosmetics, stain-resistant upholstery and carpet, and food packaging.
- Stay away from products with ingredients that list PTFE or perfluoro- or polyfluor- anything.
- Support efforts to protect drinking water sources from PFAS.