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Perfluorinated Chemicals Data and Information

Last updated Nov. 21, 2018 - 2:09 pm

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are a large group of manufactured compounds that are widely used to make everyday products more resistant to stains, grease, and water. For example, PFCs may be used to keep food from sticking to cookware, to make sofas and carpets resistant to stains, to make clothes and mattresses more waterproof, and may also be used in some food packaging, as well as in some firefighting materials. Because they help reduce friction, they are also used in a variety of other industries, including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics. Common examples of PFCs include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

PFCs can enter lakes, rivers, or groundwater through industrial releases, discharges from wastewater treatment plants, and the use of fire-fighting foam. In many cases, PFCs in water are localized and associated with a specific facility, such as river adjacent to a facility where these chemicals were produced or used to manufacture other products. However non-point sources such as fire training facilities, military bases, and domestic airports have also been identified as potential PFC contributors.

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are a large group of manufactured compounds that are widely used to make everyday products more resistant to stains, grease, and water. For example, PFCs may be used to keep food from sticking to cookware, to make sofas and carpets resistant to stains, to make clothes and mattresses more waterproof, and may also be used in some food packaging, as well as in some firefighting materials. Because they help reduce friction, they are also used in a variety of other industries, including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics.  Common examples of PFCs include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
PFCs can enter lakes, rivers, or groundwater through industrial releases, discharges from wastewater treatment plants, and the use of fire-fighting foam. In many cases, PFCs in water are localized and associated with a specific facility, such as river adjacent to a facility where these chemicals were produced or used to manufacture other products. However non-point sources such as fire training facilities, military bases, and domestic airports have also been identified as potential PFC contributor

Lab Results

As part of the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, the City of Raleigh undertook preliminary sampling in the finished drinking water for numerous PFCs beginning in June 2013.  The following data represents the City's PFC results for this voluntary testing program:

Lab Results

* Results are in units of nanograms per liter (ng/l), which is equivalent to parts per trillion (ppt)

In the first rounds of monitoring between June 2013 and March 2014, no PFCs were detected in the finished drinking water from either water treatment plant.  However, as lab testing methods and capabilities improved over the past few years, it became possible to test for more types of PFCs and at significantly lower concentrations.  In the latest round of testing, four PFCs were detected at very low levels in the finished drinking water, with both PFOS and PFAS levels well below the EPA's health advisory limit of 70 ppt. By way of example, a concentration of 3.0 ppt would be equivalent to three grains of sugar in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Is My Water Safe To Drink?

Yes, your water is safe to drink. As noted above, PFCs are not currently regulated by North Carolina or the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The EPA will continue to evaluate PFCs and determine if additional regulation is needed, which the City of Raleigh will comply with if such regulation is promulagated.

  • The City of Raleigh and other members of the professional drinking water community are absolutely committed to protecting public health. The advent of safe drinking water supplies is widely regarded as one of the the most important achievements in public health, and the City of Raleigh will continue to maintain this standard.
  • Drinking water professionals are researching the occurrence of PFCs in drinking water supplies and are closely monitoring new research as it becomes available.
  • The fact that a substance is detectable at very low levels does not mean the substance is harmful to humans.
  • The EPA maintains an active program known as the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL), identifies contaminants in public drinking water that warrant further detailed study. The EPA is currently evaluating PFOS and PFAS through this and other programs.

While research has not conclusively demonstrated human health impacts from PFCs at the very low levels found in many drinking water supplies, it should remind us of how precious our drinking water resources are and of the need to protect them from potentially harmful substances.

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