What are PFAS?

What are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and their uses

What are Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals characterized by a strong bond between fluorine and carbon. Because of this strong bond, PFAS provide resilience and durability. These properties are useful to the performance of hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, apparels, upholstery, food paper wrappings, wire and cable coatings and in the manufacturing of semiconductors.

Learn more about industrial uses of PFAS

What is PFOS?

One chemical in the group of PFAS is perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). PFOS is one of the most extensively produced and studied among PFAS chemicals. Small amounts of PFOS were historically used by the plating industry as part of a recommended practice to effectively control air emissions of chromium.

Additional Background Information on PFAS

Is PFOS still manufactured in the U.S.?

No. PFOS is no longer manufactured in the U.S. By 2002, the primary U.S. manufacturer of PFOS had voluntarily phased out its production because it was found in human populations and in wildlife. PFOS also is no longer used by the plating industry in the U.S.

Although PFOS is no longer manufactured in the U.S., it may still be present in the environment from historic use.

What are the major concerns about PFOS?

PFOS health risks have been extensively evaluated in human and laboratory animals.  Although it is not clear whether exposure to low levels of PFOS found in the environment may cause human health disease, potential concerns may be associations with PFOS exposure and increased cholesterol, impacts on the liver, and immune dysregulation.

More information on PFAS health effects can be found here.