Will PFAS Clean-up become the next Petroleum Clean-up?
There are many different types of PFAS such as perfluorocarboxylic acids (e.g., PFOA, sometimes called C8, and PFNA) and perfluorosulfonates (e.g., PFOS and PFHxS). PFAS 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 to make some food packaging resistant to grease absorption, as well as use in some firefighting materials. Because PFAS help reduce friction, they are also used in a variety of other industries, including aerospace, automotive, building and construction and electronics.
The photo below obtained from one of the PFAS webinars by Eurofins / TestAmerica clearly shows the classification of the Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Why are PFAS a health concern?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are considered emerging contaminants. An "emerging contaminant" is a chemical or material that is characterized by a perceived, potential, or real threat to human health or the environment or by a lack of published health standards. PFAS and PFOS also persist in the human body including blood, liver, kidneys and spleen and are eliminated slowly.
The presence of PFAS is so pervasive in Raw Materials, Industrial Chemicals and Consumer products that seems almost impossible to visualize a Standard Clean-up Program at this time.
For the general population, ingestion of PFAS is considered the major human exposure pathway. The major types of human exposure sources for PFAS include:
- Drinking contaminated water.
- Ingesting food contaminated with PFAS, such as certain types of fish and shellfish.
- Until recently, eating food packaged in materials containing PFAS (e.g., popcorn bags, fast food containers, and pizza boxes). Using PFAS compounds has been largely phased out of food packaging materials.
- Hand-to-mouth transfer from surfaces treated with PFAS-containing stain protectants, such as carpets, which is thought to be most significant for infants and toddlers.
- Firefighters affected by firefighting foam have been exposed to high levels of PFAS.
- Workers in industries or activities that manufacture, manipulate or use products containing PFAS may be exposed to higher levels than the general population.
ATI Drilling has participated in 3 PFAS projects at Navy Bases and Fire Training Facilities and has learned the procedures for Decontamination. The key issues for our drillers included the use Nitrile Gloves, Teflon Free Clothing, PFAS -Free Materials and Containers and Procedures for Handling of Soil and Water Samples.
Samples need to be collected in laboratory provided HDEP containers designated for PFAS analysis. The typical glass jars used for soil samples collection cannot be used because PFAS may irreversibly absorb to the glass and could create a negative bias in the measured PFAS Concentration.
The decontamination procedures have a high level of specificity that will increase the cost of obtaining and processing of the samples. Water sampling technology is showing up in the marketplace such as Sample Pro and Tubing which are PFAS-Free. PFAS analytical methodologies are at a state of rapid transition and currently there are no standardized EPA/DEP analytical procedures.
Please take advantage of the Ambient Technologies experience in PFAS projects.