How to Get Rid of PFAS Chemicals in Water
On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency（EPA） announced a commitment to further complement its process under the 2019 PFAS Action Plan , which puts the EPA one step closer to regulate PFAS chemicals in the water formally.
The EPA has made progress in protecting public health and the environment from those toxic chemicals in all of its program areas under the Action Plan. They help states, tribes, and local communities across the country, targeting PFAS reductions and protecting public health.
What is PFAS?
PFAS, which is short for Per- and Polyfluorinated substances, is a group of human-made chemicals resistant to water, oil and heat. These chemicals have been widely used in various industries and commercial applications since companies manufactured them by the mid 20 centuries.
PFAS chemicals are commonly used in life and exist in products like water-resistant clothing and shoes, non-stick cookware, stain resistant carpeting, food packaging, polishes, paints, etc.
How can PFAS affect people’s health?
With characteristics that they do not break down easily, the PFAS are known as the “forever chemicals ” that would persist and accumulate in our environment, gradually go in and build up into human bodies, causing potential risks to our health.
According to the EPA, exposure to certain PFAS compounds can increase cholesterol, impact infant birth weights, affect our immune system, lead to diseases like cancer, thyroid hormone disruption, etc.
How to remove PFAS in water with home water treatment?
Drinking water from PFAS contaminated water supplies is one of the most common ways to get exposed to the chemicals. Although the EPA and the states are paying tons of time and money to the PFAS reduction from our environment, it is a great challenge and may take years and even decades of efforts to see an obvious change.
Fortunately, many studies have shown that point-of-use filters with certain technologies can remove PFAS, making it possible for people to remove PFAS from our home water supply.
Activated Carbon Treatment
Activated carbon treatment could work well for reducing PFAS in water. It is commonly used to adsorb natural organic compounds, taste and odor compounds, and synthetic organic chemicals in drinking water treatment systems.
If you check the water filter materials, you can easily find it in refrigerator filters, faucet-mounted filters, pitcher filters, and other filtration systems. According to the studies by Duke University and N.C. State University, activated carbon filters could remove 73 percent of PFAS contaminants on average.
Yet, they also found the activated-carbon filters’ effectiveness was inconsistent and unpredictable as the test result for each test varies a lot. The activated carbon filter is only effective in removing longer-chain PFAS but not the shorter-chain PFAS.
High-pressure membranes like reverse osmosis use a partially permeable membrane to separate ions, unwanted molecules and larger particles, considered the most effective technologies to reduce PFAS in water.
Researchers from Duke University and N.C. State University tested 76 home water filtration systems for their efficiency on reducing PFAS. The study found that the reverse osmosis works the best compared to other often used filter systems on the market, like refrigerator filter, pitcher style filter, whole-house filter, etc.
The RO system could reduce GenX and other PFAS by 94 percent or more. The reverse osmosis membranes contain pores of 0.0001 microns that are only big enough to allow the passage of water molecules while blocking the PFAS and other contaminants.
It’s a great challenge to protect public health. Also, there is still a long way to go for the EPA, the government as well as the whole society to regulate the PFAS, and remove those toxic chemicals from our living environment and drinking water. As a citizen, it is crucial to know how to avoid getting exposed to those chemicals, test your home drinking water regularly, and take solutions to ensure your home drinking water safety.