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PFAS

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WHAT ARE PFAS CHEMICALS?

Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of complex chemicals used for consumer goods worldwide for the last 70 years.

Initially developed in the 1930s and subsequently manufactured by companies like Di Pont and 3M, PFAS were initially used in products like Teflon non-stick pans, Scotch Guard, and the AFFF (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam) commonly used by Defence Forces and Firefighters globally.

PFAS owe their decades of popularity to their ability to resist heat, oil, stains, and water. Rather than being a specific chemical like chlorine or fluoride, PFAS is an umbrella term for a growing list of man-made substances.

Other acronyms are used to refer to specific groups within the PFAS class of chemicals:

  • PFOS – Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid
    Found in personal care products like shampoo and cosmetics.
  • PFOA – Perfluorooctanoic acid
    Found in nonstick cookware, firefighting foam, and industrial waste.
  • PFHxS – Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid
    Used as a surfactant in industrial processes. Also found in stain-resistant fabrics and firefighting foam.
  • PFNA – Perfluorononanoic acid
    Found in stain-resistant and grease-resistant coatings on furniture, carpets, and food packaging.

These PFAS compounds have been given the nickname “forever chemicals” because they take so long to break down in the environment – and in our bodies. Rather than being expelled through sweat and waste like other toxins, forever chemicals bio-accumulate (build up over time) in both animals and humans.

Poor management and corporate disclosure led to the leaching of PFAS chemicals into the water table and surrounding environments, primarily through aqueous film-forming foams (fire fighting foams used from the 1970s to the mid-2000s), contaminating agricultural areas and water providers.

Another problem with forever chemicals is that they do not break down in the environment and can travel for long distances through water and air. The adverse effects of certain forever chemicals have been known for decades, while other PFAS compounds are still being studied and monitored to help us understand their impact on our bodies. Studies released in 2000 concluded that 95% of the planet’s water was contaminated with PFAS.

Despite national health concerns, 3M continues to use and make PFAS chemicals. The company announced its exit from per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) manufacturing and will work to discontinue using PFAS across its product portfolio by the end of 2025.

WHAT PRODUCTS CONTAIN PFAS?

Where can you find PFAS compounds?

According to 3M’s website:

PFAS are used in everyday applications to promote durability, water resistance, and many other qualities. They are found in many important parts of modern life, including:

  • Consumer goods, including non-stick cookware, food packaging, cosmetics, and clothing
  • Medical technologies and devices, like catheters, stents, and needles, as well as transdermal patches that are used for medicine delivery
  • Medicines and pharmaceuticals, including life-saving therapeutics that treat COVID-19, as well as common prescription medicines that treat conditions like anxiety or depression
  • Automobiles, including electric and conventional vehicles, to help protect fuel lines, seals, and batteries
  • Electronics, such as semiconductors and batteries, which are vital for everything from smart phones and wearable fitness trackers to national security technologies
  • Aerospace, to help allow for interference-free communication from the cockpit to the wings, tail, and other equipment
  • Advanced communications networks, including WiFi and cellular data networks
  • Sustainable and renewable energy, including solar panels, windmills, and fuel cells

Other than potentially in my food and water, where else in my home may PFAS levels or exposure occur?

  • Water-wicking materials for raincoats, umbrellas, jackets, water-resistant textiles, activewear and tents.
  • Homewares (e.g. food containers, greaseproof paper, kitchen utensils and cookware, etc.), photographs, and paper coatings.
  • Personal care items, including shampoos, toothbrushes, toothpaste, nails, and lashes.
  • Stainproof coatings for upholstery, vehicles, and carpeting.
  • Firefighting foams and fire/oil-resistant clothing

PFAS HEALTH EFFECTS TO HUMANS

The health effects of PFAS exposure have only started coming to light after decades of global use, causing many to refer to these substances as the ‘new asbestos’.

In December 2023, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency concluded that PFOA is carcinogenic to humans. In April 2024, the United States EPA concluded that there was no safe level of PFAS and that they were likely to cause cancer.

Studies have shown that exposure to harmful forever chemicals have an adverse health impact on people with high cholesterol and liver enzyme issues. It can affect reproductive health and fertility, change immune responses to vaccinations, and deteriorate enzyme levels in the blood.

The presence of PFAS in a pregnant mother’s body can lead to low infant weight and other health concerns for newborn children.

PFAS are found in many bodily tissues, with PFAS exposure linked to increased risk of renal, thyroid, and liver disease in humans. PFAS is also linked to cancer in the lungs, brain, intestines, and gastrointestinal tract, as well as a variety of inflammatory diseases.

PFAS has been tied to a wide variety of adverse health effects – a concerning fact when you consider how almost everyone on the planet has been exposed to these forever chemicals.

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT PFAS CHEMICALS TODAY?

The main challenge with understanding PFAS compounds is that thousands of different chemicals are classified under the same umbrella term, with more constantly being added to the list. These forever chemicals are incredibly resilient, travel vast distances, and leave no detectable taste or smell in our water.

However, scientific knowledge regarding PFAS’s environmental occurrence, health effects, exposure effects, test methods, and remediation technologies is rapidly evolving worldwide.

A Reverse Osmosis filtration system is one of the most reliable tools for managing existing PFAS contamination in drinking water. It strips out all water-based particles as small as 0.0005 microns and gives you the purest drinking water possible (short of distillation).

In addition to filtering water through granular activated carbon to remove other contaminants like sediments, chemicals, and volatile organic compounds, a reverse osmosis system forces water through a semi-permeable membrane, blocking 99.98% of chemicals and contaminants present in your water – including PFAS and PFOA.

These systems are placed under your kitchen sink for drinking and cooking water purposes. They perfectly complement a whole-home system that removes sediments, pesticides, heavy metals, and chlorine from the rest of your home’s water, which is used for bathing and cleaning.

While it is incredibly thorough and effective, reverse osmosis is not a suitable or sustainable whole-home solution due to the amount of wastewater it creates; one litre of pure RO water uses three litres of mains water (makes 2 litres of wastewater). It acts as a highly effective PFAS water filter, protecting your tap water with a level of PFAS reduction not provided by a standard water filter pitcher or home water filter.

Is bottled water free of PFAS?

Whether bottled water is free of PFAS depends on its source and treatment. In Australia, bottled water can come from various sources, including bores and municipal supplies. If these sources are contaminated with PFAS, the bottled water might also contain PFAS chemicals unless specific treatments like reverse osmosis are used.

Regulations and testing for PFAS in bottled water widely vary, and while some brands may use advanced filtration methods, others may not, leading to varying levels of PFAS contamination in bottled water.

For Australian consumers concerned about PFAS in bottled water, it’s advisable to research brands that disclose their water source and PFAS treatment processes. Look for those using advanced PFAS reduction methods or third-party PFAS testing for contaminants.

Alternatively, consider using a home water filtration system or reverse osmosis PFAS water filter to reduce or remove forever chemcials, which is also better for the environment and reduces plastic waste.

PFAS Removal Attapure

WHOLE HOME PFAS REMOVAL WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM – CURRENTLY IN DEVELOPMENT

Scientific technology and industry innovation in PFAS are rapidly evolving worldwide every day. Initial solutions like activated carbon and reverse osmosis have assisted in significantly reducing PFAS, but no one has yet developed a PFAS water filtration system that can affordably and efficiently reduce PFAS to a healthy level across the whole home.

Complete Home Filtration’s founder, Suzanne Dodds, has been on a mission for the last 5 years to create a solution, researching topics like PFAS exposure, human health effects of PFAS, other clinically significant harm, and the environmental burden posed by PFAS.

In collaboration with universities, national health scientific studies, and the federal government, Suzanne Dodds is currently developing a new proprietary filtration technology, a world-first PFAS chemical filtration system that protects people from exposure to PFAS-contaminated water throughout the home.

This developing technology, “Attapure”, will be designed to remove PFAS compounds from contaminated bore water via a unique PFAS-removing point-of-entry water filtration system.

Suzanne Dodds has been developing and testing this PFAS system for several years, ensuring it can keep up with daily household use and address families’ concerns.

THE AUSTRALIAN DRINKING WATER GUIDELINES

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines dictate the quality and characteristics of safe drinking water across Australia. These federal government guidelines contain the latest information regarding the safest drinking water possible. Here is a link to their website.

Australia’s drinking water comes mostly from protected waterways, underground aquifers, and dams. The government and managing water boards do a diligent job of keeping water safe and drinkable for all Australians.

The public is generally unaware of the presence of the chemicals and contaminants that may be present in our water, but this is changing. Consumers have become more health-conscious and far more aware of potential health issues, often taking action to protect themselves and their families.

Drinking water in all areas of Australia complies with Australian water regulations, though questions on those regulated set levels have been raised in recent months. The USA Environmental Protection Agency’s dramatic policy shift in April 2024 found that there was no safe level of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water and that those chemicals were likely to cause cancer.

The US EPA has deemed the level of PFOA and PFAS chemicals in all states of the United States to have an enforceable limit of 4 parts per trillion – ideally 0 parts per trillion. In comparison, the Australian government deemed the safe limit for PFOS to be 70 parts per trillion, and PFOA is 560 parts per trillion, which is concerning.

There is a general call from health and water experts that widespread sampling of Australian drinking water must be an urgent priority for the government and that Australian safe limits need to be reviewed. The government action plan is available here.

PFAS EXPOSURE IN AUSTRALIA

In many places around Australia, PFAS contamination is officially registered in soil and water. This is often near and around landfills, industrial disposal sites, and hazardous facilities.

To limit human PFAS exposure, families in these particular areas are instructed not to drink the bore or groundwater or to use it in vegetable gardens. The government provides these affected areas with bottled water for their homes at no cost. PFAS can affect many areas in our community, causing a lot of stress and anxiety.

Statistically, most people in Australia will likely have low levels of PFAS contamination in their bodies through drinking water and exposure to everyday household products, seeing limited health effects.

CAN YOU GET RID OF PFAS IN YOUR BODY?

PFAS are known for persisting in the environment and the human body. Once ingested, PFAS can accumulate and remain in the body for extended periods, making them challenging to eliminate completely.

Currently, no specific medical treatments or drugs are proven to expedite the elimination of PFAS from the body. However, there are a few strategies that may help reduce PFAS levels in the body over time.

PFAS Australia Map

STRATEGIES TO REDUCE PFAS LEVELS

  1. Minimise Further Exposure:
    • The first step in reducing PFAS levels is to minimise further exposure. This involves avoiding products and sources known to contain PFAS, such as certain non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and specific types of food packaging. Using water filters that can remove PFAS, such as reverse osmosis systems, can also help limit ingestion from drinking water.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle:
    • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can support your body’s natural detoxification processes. This includes eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fibre, which can aid in eliminating toxins. Staying hydrated (with filtered water) helps your kidneys function optimally, assisting in the excretion of contaminants.
  3. Medical Guidance:
    • If you are concerned about PFAS exposure, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide personalised advice and may suggest medical interventions if necessary. In some serious cases, your doctor or specialist might recommend regularly monitoring PFAS levels in the body.

UNDERSTAND THE QUALITY OF YOUR WATER

Concerned about the quality of your water? Booking a water consultation with Complete Home Filtration can provide you with a thorough understanding of what’s in your water and how it may impact your home and health.

Our team will conduct comprehensive testing to identify any contaminants, chlorine, heavy metals, and sediments. By analysing your water’s specific composition, we can offer tailored solutions to address any issues, ensuring you and your family have access to clean, safe, and great-tasting water.

At Complete Home Filtration, we believe in empowering our clients with knowledge and practical solutions. During your consultation, we will explain the results of your water test in clear, understandable terms and recommend the most effective filtration systems for your needs.

Whether it’s a whole house filtration system or an advanced reverse osmosis setup, we provide options that suit your lifestyle and budget. Take the first step towards better water and peace of mind by scheduling a consultation with our trusted team today.

Find out more about PFAS

PFAS are a massive issue that affects the entire world. If you would like to find out more or enquire about our removal technology, get in touch.