The next time you need a new tankless water heater installed, maintenance on your HVAC unit, repairs on your heating system, and the like, take a moment to question your technician about PFAS chemicals.
PFAS chemicals entered the market 70 years ago, yet the authorities have only recently discovered the grave danger they pose to consumers. If your home has high levels of PFAS chemicals, you must deploy the relevant solutions immediately before your health deteriorates. But you can’t do that unless you test the water.
In this article:
What Are PFAS Chemicals?
PFAS stands for ‘Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.’ The term refers to over five thousand compounds that entered the market in the 1940s. They have persisted because of their unique properties.
PFAS chemicals resist water, oil, chemicals, fire, and extreme temperatures, which is why they’re used in non-stick pans, firefighting foam, carpets, clothing, etc.
Why are they so Dangerous?
Despite their appealing attributes, PFAS chemicals are dangerous. There are two main reasons for this
1) They’re non-biodegradable
People call PFAS chemicals ‘Forever Chemicals’ because they have a carbon-fluorine bond, which is incredibly strong, giving these substances significant resistance to degradation. Don’t expect them to break down naturally.
They will persist in the environment for a long time, eventually infiltrating the human body through the water you consume. Conventional waste treatment processes cannot eliminate them.
2) They cause adverse health effects
High levels of PFAS can increase cholesterol, disrupt hormones, decrease infant birth weights, affect vaccine response in children, etc. Medical experts have connected PFAS chemicals to numerous health consequences.
People that learn of these dangers cannot help but wonder where the chemicals originate. Studies have traced PFAS contamination to locations in the vicinity of factories that make corrosion-resistant metal plating, textiles that repel water and stains, ski waxes, fabric softeners, wipers, and any other items that use PFAS chemicals.
This might sound like good news to most people, especially if they neither live nor work near factories of this sort. But it isn’t. You don’t have to frequent these contaminated locations to ingest PFAS chemicals.
Studies have shown that 97 percent of Americans have PFAS chemicals in their blood. In addition, their presence in everyday items like dental floss, cellphones, and umbrellas means that exposure to these chemicals is inevitable.
They cannot poison you overnight. This process is gradual, and it occurs when you consume the chemicals.
How to Test For PFAS Chemicals?
The EPA recognizes three PFAS testing techniques, namely 533, 537.1, and 537. But you cannot perform them by yourself. If you want to test the water for PFAS contamination, you must first identify a certified lab.
Collect some samples and send them to a certified lab. It may take a few days to get the results. Their report will probably include a detailed explanation of the method they used.
It’s hard to say why testing for these chemicals individually is hard, but a possible explanation is that interest in these toxins is relatively recent. Western governments began researching the problem just two decades ago.
You should contact your local authorities if you have concerns about PFAS contamination in the water. You cannot detect the toxins through conventional means.
Do PFAS have a unique smell?
Because news outlets have raised awareness about this issue, many people suspect PFAS contamination whenever they detect strange smells and colors in their water supply.
But researchers have not linked PFAS chemicals to any particular smell or color. If you’ve noticed anomalies in your tap water, contact your supplier. You probably have a separate issue.
The source of the water doesn’t matter. A private drinking well is not necessarily safer than municipal water. Since PFAS chemicals harm the body gradually, you can protect yourself by identifying the contamination early.
What If Your Water Supply Has A PFAS Contamination?
If 97 percent of Americans have PFAS chemicals in their blood, you have to assume that most water supplies have it. If that is true, is everyone in danger?
Not necessarily. As was noted above, these chemicals should only attract concern if they exceed 70 parts per million. Send your sample to a certified lab.
If they determine that your water’s contamination exceeds safe levels, you have two options:
1) Bottled Water
Use bottled water. This doesn’t sound like a feasible solution. But you have to remember that touching contaminated water isn’t harmful. PFAS chemicals will not harm you simply because you washed your clothes or bathed in water with the toxins.
The chemicals become dangerous when you ingest them. Therefore, if you suspect a PFAS contamination, use bottled water for cooking food, brush your teeth, and wash fruits. Naturally, you should also drink bottled water.
Install a filtration system. Many people use carbon filters because you can install them on taps. They will filter the water as it pours out of the faucet. You can also invest in filtered water pitchers.
Another feasible option is a reverse osmosis system. Add it to the sink to purify the water for cooking and drinking purposes. Better yet, install a filtration system for your whole house.
Look for reliable filters that organizations such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) have certified. Filtration systems are not all the same. Some are more efficient than others.
If you don’t know how to proceed, contact the authorities. They can use the severity of the contamination in your area to recommend an effective filter. But you have to test your water before you proceed.
Don’t base your decisions on the tests that other people performed. Because of factors like the presence of septic fields and the depth of wells, your neighbor’s results may vary from yours.
Just because the PFAS content in your neighbor’s water is low doesn’t mean you’re safe. If you have a separate well, take a sample and send it to a lab.
People are still learning about PFAS chemicals. For some, the toxins are a source of panic. Others haven’t given them a second thought. There’s no need to panic – PFAS chemicals won’t kill you overnight, but you can’t afford to ignore them either.
For the sake of your friends and family, test your water and install a filtration system.