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Perfluorinated Alkylated Substances (PFAS) - An Emerging Environmental Problem

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Perfluorinated compounds, most notably PFOS and PFOA, have been present in the environment for nearly 50 years and are found in birds, mammals and even human blood in addition to water and soil. Their principal sources are aqueous film forming foams (AFFF), used in fluoropolymer production and as surfactants for numerous consumer product applications. PFAS compounds are one of the groups of principal emerging contaminants on the DoD action list.

In 2009, the US EPA set Provisional Health Advisories for PFOA of 400 ng/L and PFOS of 200 ng/L, prompted by the occurrence of these compounds in drinking waters in several eastern states. New Jersey already has a 40 ng/L action level for PFOA. EPA is currently re-examining the health effects data and will likely issue new significantly lower health advisory levels, based on the impact of PFAS compounds on reproductive systems.

From 2013-2015, EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program (UCMR 3) generated PFAS data on more than 30,000 drinking water samples from across the country. This program showed that PFOS and PFOA were found in ~2% of public water supplies at reporting levels above 40 and 20 ng/L respectively, along with several other PFAS.

Eurofins Eaton Analytical labs performed testing for over 30% of the nationwide UCMR 3 samples and was therefore able to examine the data at lower levels (down to 5 ng/L). Using these lower reporting limits, the frequency of detection may be as high as 10% of samples, demonstrating that these compounds are indeed widespread in drinking water across the country.

In recent years, several towns in the Northeast were found to have a large number of private and public wells that were impacted by PFAS, many above even the provisional health advisory levels.

Eurofins Environment Testing US labs, including Eurofins Eaton Analytical in South Bend, IN, and Monrovia, CA, and Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories Environmental in Lancaster, PA, have been involved in many of these monitoring projects. Each of these labs is testing more than 10 different PFAS compounds with reporting limits of 5 ng/L or less, well below any anticipated new Health Advisory levels.

In addition to the analysis of water samples, the Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories Environmental facility is also providing support for the analysis of soils and sediment and will soon have the capability to perform analysis of tissue samples. The list of compounds being offered is also expanding to include a broader range of fluorinated chemistries that may be found in environmental samples.

Additionally, Eurofins is currently evaluating a field lab based ion chromatography technique to screen PFAS compounds at concentrations of 1 ppb, to help identify plumes from AFFF sites.

For further information on our analytical capabilities for PFAS compounds, please contact Chuck Neslund: CharlesNeslund@eurofinsUS.com or Andy Eaton: AndyEaton@eurofinsUS.com.