Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

On Sept. 27, 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine directed Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to analyze the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Ohio’s drinking water.

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What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals applied to many consumer goods to make them waterproof, stain resistant, or nonstick. PFAS are also used in products like cosmetics, fast food packaging, and a type of firefighting foam called aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) which are used mainly on large spills of flammable liquids, such as jet fuel.

PFAS are classified as contaminants of emerging concern, meaning that research into the harm they may cause to human health is still ongoing. The most commonly studied PFAS are perfuorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

How can I limit my potential exposure to PFAS?

Completely stopping exposure to PFAS is not practical because they are so common and present throughout the world. PFAS exposure through drinking water can be reduced by treating the water using reverse osmosis or certified carbon filtration units, or by using an alternative source of water that is not contaminated.

In general, dermal contact with water is not a health concern because PFAS are not readily absorbed through the skin. Using water that contains PFAS for showering, bathing, laundry, or household cleaning is generally safe.

Because many household products like carpeting and upholstery contain PFAS, ingestion of household dust can also be a route of exposure, especially for infants and young children through hand to mouth contact. Dust household surfaces regularly to lower the amount of dust in the house.

PFAS are also present in many consumer products. Learning about the presence of PFAS in consumer products and avoiding or limiting exposure to these products can help reduce PFAS exposures. See Ways to Reduce Exposure to PFAS within the Residents section on the Health tab.

How long has Ohio been working on PFAS?

Ohio EPA and ODH have been engaged on PFAS issues since the early 2000s with DuPont in southeast Ohio. Ohio EPA has conducted testing with local health departments at and around our national guard facilities. And we are engaged with Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the city of Dayton with the on-going monitoring, investigation, treatment and remediation of low-level PFAS.

Why develop a state action plan?

On Sept. 27, Governor Mike DeWine asked Ohio EPA and ODH to develop an action plan by December 1, 2019, to test public and private water systems and develop a strategy to work with communities and private well owners on appropriate response measures if high levels of PFAS are found. The action plan is available online.

Education and outreach materials to help Ohioans better understand PFAS compounds, associated health risks, and practical measures to reduce exposure also have been developed.

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- Check out the State of Ohio PFAS Action Plan Interactive Dashboard and Map for some really great information.

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