Forever Chemicals in the News
Forever Chemicals (broadly referred to as PFAS) have been appearing in the headlines at an increasing rate in recent months. As testing becomes more widespread, our understanding of their prevalence in the environment grows too. Scientists are racing to understand the full impact of these persistent chemicals on biological systems, while engineers work to develop efficient methods to effectively destroy them.
Here we will curate news and information about this rapidly evolving topic, particularly as it relates to PFAS in drinking water, groundwater, and wastewater.
At WaterSurplus, we provide rental PFAS removal equipment to municipalities and companies that have an immediate need to mitigate PFAS while a permanent solution is being developed. Contact our New Equipment division to speak with one of our PFAS experts.
What are Forever Chemicals?
The phrase “forever chemicals” is the colloquial term used to describe a large family of man-made chemicals that have been widely used for industrial and consumer product applications. They are more technically referred to as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). But even this name is used to describe thousands of chemical compounds. Here are some additional articles:
Clean Water Action: PFAS: The Forever Chemicals
Vox: You probably have “forever chemicals” in your body. Here’s what that means.
Where do forever chemicals come from?
Forever chemicals were first developed in the 1940s to add positive characteristics to various products. This includes non-stick coatings for cookware, stain-resistant fabric, fire-fighting foam, and coatings for cardboard and paper to prevent water and oils from penetrating (think pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags). Here are some additional articles:
The University of Maine: What are PFAS and Where Did They Come From?
Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council: PFAS Fact Sheet History and Use (PDF)
Are forever chemicals harmful to people?
Research is ongoing, but studies have shown linkages between PFAS chemical exposure and increased cholesterol, higher blood pressure during pregnancy, changes to the immune system, and increased risk of some forms of cancer. Here are some additional articles:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: What are the health effects of PFAS?
WebMD: What are the health effects of PFAS?
Where are forever chemicals being found?
It seems that forever chemicals are being found everywhere that we look for them. But particularly near airports that use firefighting foam, industrial sites that make or apply PFAS, and landfills. Here are some additional articles:
The PFAS Project Lab: Mapping PFAS Contamination
National Public Radio: Thinx settled a lawsuit over chemicals in its period underwear. Here’s what to know
Utah Department of Environmental Quality: Sources of PFAS
Wastewater Digest: The Surprising Places PFAS Are Being Found
How are forever chemicals removed from drinking water?
There are currently three standard methods for removing PFAS from water: granular activated carbon filtration, anion exchange, and reverse osmosis paired with one of the two other methods. Here are some additional articles:
WaterSurplus: PFAS Treatment
Water Quality Products: PFAS Removal Technologies
Can PFAS be destroyed?
Forever chemicals derived their nickname from the fact that they are not broken down naturally in the environment. Once removed from the water or soil, safely disposing of or destroying PFAS has proven to be challenging. The state-of-the-art has been evolving rapidly as researchers race to identify safe and efficient techniques. Here are some additional articles:
Traverse City Record-Eagle: Effective PFAS disposal methods still elusive
Vice: Scientists Destroyed 95% of Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Just 45 Minutes, Study Reports
Popular Mechanics: What Are Forever Chemicals? Behind the Plastic Villains That Refuse to Die (Pay Wall)
What are governments doing to regulate these chemicals in drinking water?
There is still much to be learned about forever chemicals, and how best to remove them from drinking water. The United States Environmental Protection Agency published its proposed rules in September of 2022. Prior to that, a handful of states and municipalities introduced regulations of their own. Here are some additional articles:
United States Environmental Protection Agency: EPA Actions to Address PFAS
JD Supra: PFAS Update: State-by-State Regulations of PFAS Substances in Drinking Water
How are municipalities handling PFAS in drinking water?
With Federal limits and regulations anticipated soon but still uncertain, and lead times for permanent PFAS treatment systems extending 2-3 years, municipalities that have found PFAS in their drinking water sources face a very challenging situation. Some have been able to turn off affected wells and rely on other uncontaminated water sources and some have chosen to wait for federal guidance. But some have begun installing rental PFAS treatment systems from companies like WaterSurplus. Here are some additional articles:
WSAW-TV: Rib Mountain first in the state to use PFAS removal treatment system
Bangor Daily News: PFAS found in drinking water at 2 Aroostook County Schools
Wausau Pilot & Review: Midwest river towns seek answers after 3M factory taints water with PFAS
Cottage Grove, MN: Clean Water for Cottage Grove
Contact our New Equipment division to speak with one of our PFAS experts.