In recent years, the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our environment has become a growing concern due to their potentially adverse effects on human health and the environment. As a result, regulatory bodies and scientific communities have been actively working to establish stricter regulations and improved testing methods to mitigate the growing issue. In this blog, we will explore the latest updates on PFAS regulations and testing to highlight the steps being taken to ensure a safer, more sustainable future.
Background on PFAS
PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used in a variety of industrial and consumer products (non-stick cookware, waterproof textiles, firefighting foams, etc)for their water and grease resistance properties. These chemicals are bioaccumulative, do not easily broke down, and can pose potential risks to human and environmental health. As a result, these substances can accumulate in the environment, leading to long-term contamination. Some of the most common types of PFAS include Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).
Regulatory bodies have been attempting to implement new measures to recognize the urgency of PFAS, PFOA and PFOS contamination. In 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a lifetime health advisory level (HAL) of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS. By June 2022, however, newly discovered toxicity data and recent analyses prompted the EPA to develop lower recommended HALs to 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS.
On March 14, 2023, the EPA released a proposed national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR) for PFOA and PFOS, as well as for four additional PFAS and their mixtures. According to the EPA, the newly proposed NPDWR should be in affect by the end of 2023. The regulation will set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) for various PFAS. It will also require public water systems to regularly test PFAS concentrations, notify consumers if levels exceed the MCLs, and take measures to decrease PFASs to meet MCLs if levels are elevated.
Advancements in Testing Methods
To effectively manage and mitigate the risks associated with PFAS, advancements in testing methods are imperative. Traditional testing methods, such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), have limitations when it comes to detecting and quantifying the numerous types of PFAS compounds. However, new techniques like high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) have proven to be more accurate and sensitive in analyzing a broader range of PFAS compounds, enabling researchers to better understand their occurrence and behavior in various matrices.
Efforts are ongoing to develop rapid, on-site testing methods that can provide real-time results, facilitating prompt actions to protect public health. These methods often employ technologies like portable mass spectrometers or immunoassays, enabling quicker and cost-effective screening of PFAS contamination in water, soil, and other environmental samples.
With stricter standards being put in place to protect human health and the environment, the regulatory landscape surrounding PFAS is rapidly evolving. These regulations, coupled with advancements in testing methods, are crucial steps toward addressing the challenges posed by these persistent pollutants.
At Indoor Science, we specialize in conducting comprehensive investigations and testing procedures to determine the overall safety and comfort of building occupants. Whether you’re concerned about the possible presence of PFASs, your property’s drinking water or other areas of concern, we have the technical expertise and experience to assist you.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). PFAS. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/pfas
- European Chemicals Agency. (2021). Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Retrieved from https://echa.europa.eu/pfas
- Government of Canada. (2020). Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/fact-sheets/chemicals-glance/perfluorinated-substances-polyfluorinated-substances-pfas.html
- National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). (2021). PFAS in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.nicnas.gov.au/chemical-information/factsheets/pfas-in-australia
- Hu, X.C., Andrews, D.Q., Lindstrom, A.B., Bruton, T.A., Schaider, L.A., Grandjean, P., Lohmann, R., Carignan, C.C., Blum, A., Balan, S.A., Higgins, C.P., & Sunderland, E.M. (2016). Detection of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in U.S. drinking water linked to industrial sites, military fire training areas, and wastewater treatment plants. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 3(10), 344-350.
- Quiñones, O., Johnson, T.A., Vandenberg, J.J., Nichols, R., & Drozd, R. (2019). A review of portable mass spectrometry instrumentation, methods, and applications. Analytica Chimica Acta, 1061, 1-16.
- Su, G., Wang, H., Cooley, N., & Quiñones, O. (2021). Development of on-site immunoassay for rapid screening of PFAS contamination. Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, 7(4), 680-690.