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PFAS - An Emerging Concern

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PFAS - An Emerging Concern

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What are PFAS Compounds?

Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs), including PFOS and PFOA, are man-made compounds that have very strong chemical bonds and do not degrade readily.  They have been used for more than 50 years in products such as paper and packaging, stain resistant fabrics, non-stick cook ware, aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), cleaning products, leathers and metal plating.  They were widely used because of their non-sticking properties and their ability to resist heat, stains, grease and water.

In terms of chemical composition, PFASs are formed from fluorinated carbon chains that are both hydrophobic and lipophobic in nature.  The carbon-fluorine bond formed in these chemicals is extremely strong and stable, thus reducing breakdown and degradation. 

How prevalent is PFAS in the environment?

Because they are stable chemicals and move freely in the environment, PFAS have been found around the world in both the environment and in human blood.   They are classified as an emerging contaminant and were included in EPA’s Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3), which monitored thirty emerging contaminants between 2013 and 2015.  The UCMR 3 list contained six perfluorinated compounds that were analyzed in 4,920 Public Water Systems (PWSs). 


What regulations have been enacted?

PFAS compounds are not currently regulated at the Federal level.   However, the EPA recently issued revised health advisory limits of 0.07 µg/L for both PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.   Several states also have current or pending rules with equal or lower limits. 


What are the options available for testing samples for PFASs?

TestAmerica offers PFAS testing at three locations; Sacramento, Denver and Burlington.  Our methods utilize LC/MS/MS technology to achieve reporting limits as low as 0.02 ug/L in water samples and 0.2 µg/kg in soils.  We use EPA Method 537 for drinking water samples, and modified method 537 for other complex matrices (groundwater, soil, tissues, sediment, etc.).

TestAmerica recently began offering a Total Oxidizable Precursor (TOP) Assay preparatory technique in conjunction with the modified method 537, allowing for a measurement of PFAS risk.  TOP Assay is a pretreatment oxidation process that mimics the aerobic transformation of PFAS precursors to perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs).  The process involves the analysis of both a pre and a post oxidation aliquot of the aqueous field sample, providing results for PFAS precursors and PFAS analytes.

To learn more about PFAS and the TOP Assay procedure, please visit our PFAS webpage or contact TestAmerica’s PFAS expert, Karla Buechler.


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