What are PFAS?

Per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a category of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and they are found in many different consumer, commercial, and industrial products. PFAS have characteristics that make them useful in a variety of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, firefighting foam, stain-resistant carpets, food packaging, and cleaning products.  PFAS are used in products for their strength and resistance to heat, water, and oil. These manufactured chemicals are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment. They can cycle through the air, soil, and water and enter the food chain.

People can be exposed to PFAS in drinking water, food, indoor dust, some consumer products, and workplaces.

When PFAS are made, used, disposed of, or spilled near water sources, like rivers, aquifers or wells, the chemicals can get into drinking water. Because PFAS do not break down easily, they may remain in water supplies for many years and have been found in people, wildlife, and fish.