Perfluoroalkyl substances

Other Names:
Forever chemicals
Polyfluoroalkyl chemicals

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is a class of roughly 4,700 synthetic chemicals that have been in production and commercial use since WWII and found in products such as Teflon, Scotchguard, and firefighting foam. These chemicals make everyday objects resistant to heat, moisture and stains.and are typically used to repel oil and liquids, create waterproofness, create non-stick coatings and improve consistency and shine in cosmetics. Versions of PFAS are found in stain-resistant carpets, furniture, ski wax, rainproof coats, sporting gear and non-stick cookware.  High levels of PFAS are also found in food packaging like pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers in order to keep food from sticking.

Persistent and mobile, PFSA “forever chemicals” leach through the soil to drinking water, threatening the health of people, wildlife and the wider environment.  Research suggests that nearly every source of surface water is contaminated by PFAS.  Tests have revealed dangerous levels of PFAS in all sorts of everyday contexts: rain, food and sewage sludge that farmers spread on cropland as fertilizer. PSASs are conserved in the environment for decades (if not centuries), contaminating drinking water and soil and entering human bodies, where they have been linked to a range of health concerns, including cancers, particularly increased risks of kidney and testicular cancer, liver damage, autoimmune disorders, thyroid problems, low birth weight, compromised immune systems, ulcerative colitis and a host of other health problems.


PCBs were widely used for 30 to 40 years, beginning in the 1930s and 1940s. PFAS chemicals came on the market around the same time, but unlike PCBs, they were never banned and to this day have minimal regulations. As such, they've been contaminating water, food, and consumer products for almost a century. The EPA estimates that the class of PFAS-related compounds constitutes more than 9,000, with an estimated 1,000 still in use.

As the location of production for decades, there is a truly staggering amount of PFAS contamination in the USA. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has mapped more than 2,800 contaminated sites and identified nearly 30,000 additional potential sites.

Specifically, high PFAS levels exist in drinking water in 34 U.S. cities, and of tap water samples taken from 44 places in 31 states in 1998, only one location had no detectable PFAS.  Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans and the northern New Jersey suburbs have the highest levels in the USA.  PFAS are so ubiquitous that the data suggested that roughly 110 million Americans could be contaminated by PFAS and that they are in 99 percent of Americans’ blood.

PFOA and PFOS are the most notorious PFASs and before they were phased out by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they were recognized as global pollutants, linked to several toxic injury chemical cases against DuPont, one of the largest producers and polluters. Opinion is that the financial, medical and environmental costs to address PFAS will almost certainly dwarf those related to lingering PCB contamination.






Controlling chemicals
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
15.11.2021 – 04:40 CET