A State of Emergency was declared in Newburgh, New York on Monday May 2, 2016, as the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) announced that it found elevated levels of the contaminant known as Petroflourooctanesulfonic acid or (PFOS). In response to the report, the Water Department has already changed its water supply until the source of the contamination is eliminated. Thankfully, public officials managed to identify the crisis quickly and begin amelioration of the problem. Upon changing the water sources, officials also instituted emergency water conservation measures to compensate for the decrease in clean drinking water. The conservation measure will likely remain in place until the source of the PFOS is eliminated and the restorative efforts are completed.
For those less familiar with the chemical in question, PFOS became popular in the early 1950’s for it’s use as a consumer water repellent like Scotch-guard. Use of this substance became so ubiquitous that by 1997 it was found to be present in nearly every blood sample and individual available for testing. In light of this troublesome news the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began performing studies on PFOS and PFOS-related compounds. The conclusions were damning to say the least. In both human and animal studies, PFOS has been linked to maladies such as: cancer, delays in physical development, stunted growth, endocrine (hormonal) disruption, neonatal mortality, and most recently immunosuppression. While there is a lot of bad news regarding PFOS, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. In May 2000, 3M, the largest producer of PFOS in the United States, voluntarily began a complete phase-out of the product here in America. In addition, a study performed in 2006 indicated that the average blood level of PFOS in American adults to have decreased by 60% in just seven years (1999-2006).
We at Clearly Filtered would like to extend our best wishes to those affected by this frightening emergency that is far too common today. We would also like to commend all the public agencies involved for their swift and proactive response to discovery of the contamination. This emergency highlights how important it is to be prepared and vigilant. While PFOS is on the decline here in America, it's use in countries such as China is actually increasing. In addition, there is no ban on industrial use of PFOS, which means there is still a likelihood of accidental contamination in the future. Currently, the EPA’s provisional health advisory is set at 0.2 ug/L(*As of May 19th the EPA’s health advisory was lowered to 0.07ug/L). However, it is important to remember that health advisories are NOT enforceable. In other words these are industry goals; not mandates. There is no acceptable or safe level of PFOS.
So how can you protect yourself and your family from PFOS?
- Educate Yourself about your water supply. (Does your water contain PFOS or are you traveling to an area where PFOS contamination is prevalent i.e. China.)
- Determine your Filtration needs. (In the EPA’s Fact Sheet, the EPA recommends use of an activated carbon filter to treat water containing PFOS.)
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- Environmental Protection Agency
- Renner, R. (2008). PFOS phaseout pays off. Environmental Science & Technology Environ. Sci. Technol., 42 (13), 4618-4618. doi:10.1021/es0871715
- Grandjean, P., Andersen, E. W., Budtz-Jørgensen, E., Nielsen, F., Mølbak, K., Weihe, P., & Heilmann, C. (2012). Serum Vaccine Antibody Concentrations in Children Exposed to Perfluorinated Compounds. Jama, 307(4). doi:10.1001/jama.2011.2034
- Fei, C., Mclaughlin, J. K., Lipworth, L., & Olsen, J. (2009). Maternal levels of perfluorinated chemicals and subfecundity. Human Reproduction, 24(5), 1200-1205. doi:10.1093/humrep/den490
- Bonefeld-Jorgensen, E. C., Long, M., Bossi, R., Ayotte, P., Asmund, G., Krüger, T., . . . Dewailly, E. (2011). Perfluorinated compounds are related to breast cancer risk in greenlandic inuit: A case control study. Environmental Health Environ Health,10(1), 88. doi:10.1186/1476-069x-10-88
- Environmental Protection Agency Fact Sheet PFOA & PFOS Drinking Water Health Advisories