EPA FACT SHEET
PFOA & PFOS Drinking Water
EPA has established health advisories for PFOA and PFOS based on the agency’s assessment of the latest peer-reviewed science to provide drinking water system operators, and state, tribal and local officials who have the primary responsibility for overseeing these systems, with information on the health risks of these chemicals, so they can take the appropriate actions to protect their residents. EPA is committed to supporting states and public water systems as they determine the appropriate steps to reduce exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. As science on health effects of these chemicals evolves, EPA will continue to evaluate new evidence.
Background on PFOA and PFOS
PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. They have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials (e.g., cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes.
Because these chemicals have been used in an array of consumer products, most people have been exposed to them. Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer. In 2006, eight major companies voluntarily agreed to phase out their global production of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals, although there are a limited number of ongoing uses. Scientists have found PFOA and PFOS in the blood of nearly all the people they tested, but these studies show that the levels of PFOA and PFOS in blood have been decreasing. While consumer products and food are a large source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source in the small percentage of communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, for example, an industrial facility where these chemicals were produced or used to manufacture other products or an airfield at which they were used for firefighting.
EPA's 2016 Lifetime Health Advisories
EPA develops health advisories to provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to states agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. In 2009, EPA published provisional health advisories for PFOA and PFOS based on the evidence available at that time. The science has evolved since then and EPA is now replacing the 2009 provisional advisories with new, lifetime health advisories.
To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, EPA established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion. When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS should be compared with the 70 parts per trillion health advisory level. This health advisory level offers a margin of protection for all Americans throughout their life from adverse health effects resulting from exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.
How the Health Advisories were developed
EPA’s health advisories are based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS on laboratory animals (rats and mice) and were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to PFASs. These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes).
EPA’s health advisory levels were calculated to offer a margin of protection against adverse health effects to the most sensitive populations: fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed infants. The health advisory levels are calculated based on the drinking water intake of lactating women, who drink more water than other people and can pass these chemicals along to nursing infants through breastmilk.
Recommended Actions for Drinking Water Systems
Steps to Assess Contamination
If water sampling results confirm that drinking water contains PFOA and PFOS at individual or combined concentrations greater than 70 parts per trillion, water systems should quickly undertake additional sampling to assess the level, scope and localized source of contamination to inform next steps
Steps to Inform
If water sampling results confirm that drinking water contains PFOA and PFOS at individual or combined concentrations greater than 70 parts per trillion, water systems should promptly notify their State drinking water safety agency (or with EPA in jurisdictions for which EPA is the primary drinking water safety agency) and consult with the relevant agency on the best approach to conduct additional sampling. Drinking water systems and public health officials should also promptly provide consumers with information about the levels of PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water. This notice should include specific information on the risks to fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed and formula-fed infants from exposure to drinking water with an individual or combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS above EPA’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. In addition, the notification should include actions they are taking and identify options that consumers may consider to reduce risk such as seeking an alternative drinking water source, or in the case of parents of formula-fed infants, using formula that does not require adding water.
Steps to Limit Exposure
A number of options are available to drinking water systems to lower concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water supply. In some cases, drinking water systems can reduce concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances, including PFOA and PFOS, by closing contaminated wells or changing rates of blending of water sources. Alternatively, public water systems can treat source water with activated carbon or high pressure membrane systems (e.g., reverse osmosis) to remove PFOA and PFOS from drinking water. These treatment systems are used by some public water systems today, but should be carefully designed and maintained to ensure that they are effective for treating PFOA and PFOS. In some communities, entities have provided bottled water to consumers while steps to reduce or remove PFOA or PFOS from drinking water or to establish a new water supply are completed.
Many home drinking water treatment units are certified by independent accredited third party organizations against American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards to verify their contaminant removal claims. NSF International (NSF®) has developed a protocol for NSF/ANSI Standards 53 and 58 that establishes minimum requirements for materials, design and construction, and performance of point-of-use (POU) activated carbon drinking water treatment systems and reverse osmosis systems that are designed to reduce PFOA and PFOS in public water supplies. The protocol has been established to certify systems (e.g., home treatment systems) that meet the minimum requirements. The systems are evaluated for contaminant reduction by challenging them with an influent of 1.5±30% μg/L (total of both PFOA and PFOS) and must reduce this concentration by more than 95% to 0.07 μg/L or less (total of both PFOA and PFOS) throughout the manufacturer’s stated life of the treatment system. Product certification to this protocol for testing home treatment systems verifies that devices effectively reduces PFOA and PFOS to acceptable levels.
Other Actions Relating to PFOA and PFOS
Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer, 3M. EPA also issued regulations to limit future manufacturing, including importation, of PFOS and its precursors, without first having EPA review the new use. A limited set of existing uses for PFOS (fire resistant aviation hydraulic fluids, photography and film products, photomicrolithography process to produce semiconductors, metal finishing and plating baths, component of an etchant) was excluded from these regulations because these uses were ongoing and alternatives were not available.
In 2006, EPA asked eight major companies to commit to working toward the elimination of their production and use of PFOA, and chemicals that degrade to PFOA, from emissions and products by the end of 2015. All eight companies have indicated that they have phased out PFOA, and chemicals that degrade to PFOA, from emissions and products by the end of 2015. Additionally, PFOA is included in EPA’s proposed Toxic Substance Control Act’s Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) issued in January 2015 which will ensure that EPA has an opportunity to review any efforts to reintroduce the chemical into the marketplace and take action, as necessary, to address potential concerns.
EPA has not established national primary drinking water regulations for PFOA and PFOS. EPA is evaluating PFOA and PFOS as drinking water contaminants in accordance with the process required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). To regulate a contaminant under SDWA, EPA must find that it: (1) may have adverse health effects; (2) occurs frequently (or there is a substantial likelihood that it occurs frequently) at levels of public health concern; and (3) there is a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for people served by public water systems.
EPA included PFOA and PFOS among the list of contaminants that water systems are required to monitor under the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3) in 2012. Results of this monitoring effort are updated regularly and can be found on the publicly-available National Contaminant Occurrence
In accordance with SDWA, EPA will consider the occurrence data from UCMR 3, along with the peer reviewed health effects assessments supporting the PFOA and PFOS Health Advisories, to make a regulatory determination on whether to initiate the process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation.
In addition, EPA plans to begin a separate effort to determine the range of PFAS for which an Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment is needed. The IRIS Program identifies and characterizes the health hazards of chemicals found in the environment. IRIS assessments inform the first two steps of the risk assessment process: hazard identification, and dose-response. As indicated in the 2015 IRIS Multi-Year Agenda, the IRIS Program will be working with other EPA offices to determine the range of PFAS compounds and the scope of assessment required to best meet Agency needs. More about this effort can be found at https://www.epa.gov/iris/iris-agenda.
Non-Drinking Water Exposure to PFOA and PFOS
These health advisories only apply to exposure scenarios involving drinking water. They are not appropriate for use, in identifying risk levels for ingestion of food sources, including: fish, meat produced from livestock that consumes contaminated water, or crops irrigated with contaminated water.
The health advisories are based on exposure from drinking water ingestion, not from skin contact or breathing. The advisory values are calculated based on drinking water consumption and household use of drinking water during food preparation (e.g., cooking or to prepare coffee, tea or soup). To develop the advisories, EPA considered non-drinking water sources of exposure to PFOA and PFOS, including: air, food, dust, and consumer products. In January 2016 the Food and Drug Administration amended its regulations to no longer allow PFOA and PFOS to be added in food packaging, which will likely decrease one source of non-drinking water exposure.
Where Can I Learn More?
- EPA’ Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/drinking-water-health-advisories-pfoa-and-pfos
- PFOA and PFOS data collected under EPA’ Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule are available: https://www.epa.gov/dwucmr/occurrence-data-unregulated-contaminant-monitoring-rule
- EPA’s stewardship program for PFAS related to TSCA: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfass-under-tsca
- EPA’s research activities on PFASs can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/chemical-research/perfluorinated-chemical-pfc-research
- The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’ Perfluorinated Chemicals and Your Health webpage at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/PFC/
PFOS/PFOA Drinking Water Sampling Homeowner Questionnaire
Name and Address:
Do you rent or own your property?
Is there more than one home or apartment on this property? If yes, how many homes? How many apartments?
Do you share your private drinking well water with other residents/users outside your property?
Do you have well construction information on your private drinking water well (e.g. when it was installed, well depth, well location, and screen length)? If yes, please provide details (include construction log if available):
Have you upgraded your private drinking water well system in any way? If so please specify (e.g. storage tanks, water treatment).
Have you ever had your private drinking water well tested? If so, will you share the results?
Do you have more than one well (e.g. additional well for irrigation or livestock)?
Will you share your email address and phone number for future contact?
Please return this questionnaire to the Navy: mail it to Public Works Department Jacksonville, ATTN: Dave Ford, P.O. Box 50 Code PR24DF, NAS Jacksonville, Florida 32212-0050 or email to the Dave Ford at email@example.com. You can also bring the form with you to the Open House on August 16 at the Courtyard by Marriott, 610 Wells Road, Orange Park, FL 32073 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
PFOS/PFOA Drinking Water Sampling Frequently Asked Questions
How do I schedule the sampling? Property owners within the designated sampling area can call 904-542-4228 to schedule a sampling appointment.
How do I return the Homeowner Questionnaire?
Please return the questionnaire to the Navy: mail it to Public Works Department Jacksonville, ATTN: Dave Ford, P.O. Box 50 Code PR24DF, NAS Jacksonville, Florida 32212-0050 or email to Dave Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The questionnaire can also be returned to the Navy at the Open House on August 16 at the Courtyard by Marriott, 610 Wells Road, Orange Park, FL 32073 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
What are the dates and times for sampling? The sampling will be conducted from 20 August 2018. Sampling appointments will be available between the hours of 9 am to 7 pm. Accommodations can be made for property owners who may not be available during the regularly scheduled sampling times.
Who will be taking the sample? A team of two Navy-contracted professional environmental samplers will collect the sample. An adult resident (18 years of age or older) must be present during the sampling.
How long will the sampling take? The sampling will take approximately 30 minutes. The Navy representatives will take a sample from the closest spigot to your well, preferably from a spigot that does not receive any in-home treatment. If there is no outside access, the sample will be collected from a faucet in your home. The team will also review the homeowner questionnaire, if completed.
When will I receive the results? The results are expected in September 2018, depending on when the sample was obtained. The Navy will provide private notification of your results. If your drinking water is found to contain PFOS and/or PFOA above the EPA health advisory levels, the Navy will contact you in person to arrange for alternate water (e.g., bottled water) for drinking and cooking in your home until a long-term solution can be implemented. If your drinking water is found to contain PFOS and /or PFOA below the EPA health advisory levels, you will be contacted and informed of these results.
Will my results be private? All results will be confidential to the greatest extent possible. You will receive your results and all references to results in official reports or in documents that will have a random number associated with your drinking water sample. Reports and documents will not contain your name or address. The Navy will not share any personal information that you provide, such as name, address, email, or phone number without your permission.