PFAS: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
July 20, 2022 - Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued a health advisory on PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in drinking water, but it has yet to regulate them. As state and federal regulators review the current science on PFAS prior to establishing allowed limits in drinking water, they have established “health advisories” for some of these substances. The EPA lifetime health advisories identify levels to protect all people including sensitive populations from adverse health effects resulting from a lifetime of exposure to PFAS.
The Village purchases its Lake Michigan water from the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA). CLCJAWA delivers drinking water to 13 members serving 19 communities situated in Central Lake County. Member communities include Grayslake, Gurnee, Lake Bluff, Lake Village, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, Mundelein, Round Lake Beach/Heights, Round Lake, Round Lake Park, Volo, Wauconda and areas of unincorporated Lake County including Knollwood/Rondout, Wildwood, Vernon Hills, Grandwood Park and Fox Lake Hills to approximately 285,000 residents.
CLCJAWA has monitored for PFAS since 2006 and continues to closely monitor for these substances. Since the monitoring began, CLCJAWA has not seen increasing or decreasing concentrations. CLCJAWA is starting the process to evaluate treatment options to reduce public exposure to PFAS in potable drinking water.
Though CLCJAWA’s drinking water meets all state and federal drinking water regulations, the drinking water at CLCJAWA exceeds the new national health advisory for two PFAS known as PFOA and PFOS. The average level of PFOA detected in CLCJAWA drinking water is 2.4 parts-per-trillion (ppt), while the PFOS level is 2.3 ppt.
- What are PFAS?
- Where do PFAS come from?
- How are people exposed to PFAS?
- Working in occupations such as firefighting, manufacturing and processing
- Drinking water contaminated with PFAS
- Eating foods contaminated with PFAS
- Using products with packing material that contain PFAS, such as fast food containers
- Breathing air contaminated with PFAS or swallowing contaminated soil or dust
- Are PFAS regulated in drinking water?
- What is a health advisory?
- What are the health effects related to PFAS?
- Does CLCJAWA water meet all state and federal regulations.
- Are there PFAS in my drinking water?
- What has CLCJAWA done about PFAS in Lake Michigan water?
- Began annual testing for PFOS and PFOA in 2006 when test methods became available
- Moved to more frequent testing for 14 compounds of PFAS in 2018
- Remained current on all literature and scientific studies regarding PFAS in drinking water
- Published all results since 2006 in detailed water quality reports on its website
- Continuing to evaluate all options to reduce PFAS in our drinking water
- Continuing to meet all current US/IL EPA drinking water regulations and will meet all future regulations
- Should I drink bottled water?
- Can PFAS be boiled out of my water?
- Are there home treatment options?
- Is my water safe for bathing/showering?
- Are PFAS still being used?
- What we don’t fully understand?
- How to better and more efficiently detect and measure PFAS in our air, water, soil and fish and wildlife
- How much people are exposed to PFAS
- How harmful PFAS are to people and the environment
- How to remove PFAS from drinking water
- How to manage and dispose of PFAS
- What can I do to limit my environmental exposure to PFAS?
- Avoid consumer products that contain PFAS such as non-stick cookware that has PFAS and stain-resistant furniture and carpeting. Look for “fluoro” or “perfluoro” in an ingredients list or ask the manufacturer.
- Limit eating foods packed in materials that use PFAS. Common food packaging that may have PFAS includes microwave popcorn bags, fast food boxes (like french fry containers and pizza boxes) and bakery bags.
- Limit consumption of contaminated foods such as certain fish
- Minimize the dust in your home to limit PFAS particles in the air. Change your home’s air filter on a regular basis and leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking in dirt and pollutants.
- Avoid personal care products that have PFAS. These include certain types of dental floss, nail polish, facial moisturizers and cosmetics.
- Bottled water may also contain PFAS so ensure the manufacturer is removing harmful PFAS if using bottle water.
- Learn about the PFAS levels in your local drinking water. If you want an at-home treatment option, look at the NSF (National Science Foundation).
- International list of products certified to remove PFAS from drinking water in the home.
- How can I find out more information?
PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are a large group of manufactured chemicals used since the 1940s in common household and commercial products. These chemicals do not breakdown easily over time. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, which makes them challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks.
Specific sources of PFAS include water resistant clothing, pesticides, paints and sealants, food packaging, stain resistant products, firefighting foams and non-stick cookware. PFAS can be found nearly everywhere on the globe, from people to animals, in food, soil and water.
Diet typically accounts for the majority of a person's exposure to PFAS. Dust can be another source, but water tends to receive the most media attention because it is tested for PFAS.
At this time, PFAS are not regulated contaminants in drinking water. As state and federal regulators review the current science on PFAS prior to establishing allowed limits in drinking water, they have established “health advisories” for some of these substances. In June of 2022, the US EPA issued updated Health Advisories for 4 PFAS compounds and announced that new enforceable regulations for PFOA and PFOS will go into effect by the end of 2023 but have yet to be established.
EPA lifetime health advisories identify levels to protect all people, including sensitive populations and life stages, from any adverse health effects resulting from a lifetime of exposure to PFAS in drinking water. EPA’s lifetime health advisories also take into account other potential sources of exposure to PFAS beyond drinking water (for example, food, air, consumer products, etc.), providing an additional layer of protection.
Research on the potential health effects of PFAS is ongoing. Due to their durable characteristics, PFAS are bioaccumulative, which means that they can build up over time. While exposure does not necessarily mean that a person will get sick or experience an adverse health effect, current scientific studies have potentially linked PFAS exposure to increased cholesterol levels, increased risk for thyroid disease, low infant birth weights, reduced response to vaccines, liver and kidney toxicity, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. The Center for Disease Control however reports that with the phaseout of these chemicals in the U.S., blood levels found in U.S. residents have decreased by more than 70% since 2000. For more information about health effects see the Illinois EPA PFAS health effects webpage.
CLCJAWA water meets all state and federal drinking water regulations.
Yes, though Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA) drinking water meets all state and federal drinking water regulations. The drinking water at CLCJAWA exceeds the new national health advisory for two PFAS known as PFOA and PFOS. The average level of PFOA detected in CLCJAWA drinking water is 2.4 parts-per-trillion (ppt), while the PFOS level is 2.3 ppt.
These levels are typical for all Lake Michigan water plants.
CLCJAWA has monitored for PFAS since 2006 and will continue to closely monitor for these substances which it has not seen increasing or decreasing in concentration. It is evaluating treatment options to reduce public exposure to PFAS in potable drinking water and will continue to keep the public informed.
At this time, the EPA is not recommending bottled water for communities based solely on concentrations of these chemicals in drinking water that exceed the health advisory levels. EPA notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not established standards for PFAS in bottled water at this time. In addition, PFAS have been found in some bottled water.
No, PFAS cannot be removed by heating or boiling water.
The levels of PFAS found in Lake Michigan are so low that currently no home treatment devices are certified to remove them. The health advisory levels established by the U.S. EPA are so low that testing methods do not yet exist to measure them.
The EPA’s health advisories are primarily focused on drinking water ingestion, not exposure through skin or breathing. However, they account for a margin of safety for other potential exposure sources, such as through skin (dermal), breathing (inhalation), dietary exposure, consumer products, etc. Studies have shown that only a small amount of PFAS can get into your body through skin.
Many PFAS such as PFOA and PFOS have been phased out of production but still persist in the environment. The Center for Disease Control states that most people in the U.S. have PFAS in their blood though bloodlevels of PFOS and PFOA have declined by over 70% in the last 10 years.
Researchers and partners across the country are working hard to answer critical questions about PFAS:
Residents are encouraged to visit CLCJAWA website to review information that has been posted related to PFAS. This information can be found at: https://www.clcjawa.com/water-quality/in-the-news. Additional information on PFAS and their potential health impacts can be found in this U.S. EPA PFAS fact sheet and on this Illinois EPA web page as well as the following sources: