Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
On June, 2021 the U.S. Army began testing drinking water from private water wells on properties near the Yakima Training Center. The testing looked for concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkly substances (PFAS) in the well water. Households with PFAS concentrations that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifetime Health Advisory were notified and advised to use an alternative safe drinking water source to reduce their risk of exposure to PFAS.
Touching products made with PFAS or touching water that contains PFAS is not considered a significant source of exposure.
What are PFAS?
PFAS are man made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s to make a wide variety of stain-resistant, water-resistant, and non-stick consumer products. The most commonly studied PFAS are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).
Some examples of products that contain PFAS include:
- Food packaging
- Non-stick cookware
- Outdoor clothing
- Firefighting foams
- Stain resistant fabrics and carpets
- Products that resist grease, water, and oil
How are people exposed to PFAS?
People are primarily exposed to PFAS by ingesting contaminated food or water, or by using products that contain PFAS. People can also be exposed by unintentionally swallowing soil or indoor dust that contain PFAS or breathing PFAS in indoor or outdoor air.
How do PFAS get into drinking water?
PFAS can get into drinking water if they are made, used, disposed of, or spilled onto the ground or into lakes and rivers. When this happens and depending on where you live, your public drinking system or private well water could be impacted or contaminated.
What are possible health concerns with PFAS?
Scientists are still studying how PFAS affect people's health. What is currently known about the health effects of PFAS is based on animal studies and findings from observational studies in humans that have been exposed to PFAS. Such studies suggest that higher exposure to certain PFAS may lead to:
- Increased cholesterol levels.
- Decreased immune response to vaccines.
- Changes in liver enzymes that indicate liver damage.
- Increased risk of thyroid disease.
- Increased risk of testicular and kidney cancer.
- Blood pressure problems during pregnancy
- Decreased birth weights
Are certain groups at higher risk?
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding and formula-fed infants may have higher exposure to PFAS because they drink more water than most people. These groups are also in life stages where they may be especially sensitive to harmful health effects of PFAS.
What else can I do to protect myself?
- If possible, avoid water, food, or other products that contain PFAS.
- Install a water treatment unit that uses granular activated carbon, ion exchange, or reverse osmosis.
- If you have been exposed to PFAS and are concerned about your health, talk to your healthcare provider.