PFOA and PFOS: What Are They and How to Remove Them?

PFOA and PFOS belong to the Perfluorinated alkylated substances PFAS group of chemicals. The PFOA stands for Perfluorooctanoic acid, whereas PFOS stands for Perfluorooctane sulfonate. Due to the unique abilities of PFOA and PFOS to repel water and oil, these artificial chemicals are utilized in several industrial applications and products. Examples of these products are non-stick cookware, food wraps, stain repellents, and fire-repellent foams which possess a heavy dose of PFOA and PFOS. These chemicals eventually make their way into our water resources due to insufficient collection and industrial water disposal methods. These chemicals are known to cause adverse effects on human health if consumed and are found in our drinking water. In recent years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the drinking water guidelines for PFOA and PFOS. Since PFOA and PFOS in drinking water is hazardous to human health, EPA suggests the removal of these contaminants from drinking water. This post introduces PFOA and PFOS, their impact on human health, and methods to remove them from drinking water.

pfoa and pfos diagram

What Are PFOA and PFOS?

There are over 5000 chemicals in the group of PFAS, however, PFOA and PFOS are the specific ones identified and known to cause harm to humans. These two chemicals are being used in commercial and domestic products since the 1940s. The toxicity of these two artificial chemicals has been a topic of debate since the 2000s. The need for the removal of these chemicals from water has been taken more seriously since then.

These chemicals are released into natural water sources via industrial or domestic wastewater disposal. Also, the use of commercial products with these chemicals releases these chemicals into the environment. Thus, they are found in soil, air, surface water, ground water, drinking water, etc. Consumption of drinking water with contaminated PFOA and PFOS is proven hazardous for human health. Therefore, the organizations like The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Water Research Foundation, and a few organizations recommended the removal of these contaminants from drinking water.

Let us discuss the toxic effects of PFOA and PFOS on human health.

What Are the Hazards of Having PFOA and PFOS In Drinking Water?

The following adverse effects of the presence of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water and its consumption are addressed by EPA.

  • Liver damage
  • Cholesterol fluctuations and thyroid
  • Testicular cancer or kidney cancer
  • Developmental abnormality to infants if consumed by their mother during pregnancy.
  • Accelerated puberty, less birth weight, and skeletal variations, etc are common hazards to infants.

In order to prevent the population from such adverse effects of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, the EPA invited eight leading companies contributing to PFAS studies to join the Global Stewardship Program. The discussion in this program lead to two aims, one was to reach a 95% reduction in emission of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water by 2010, and the second one was to 100% elimination of these chemicals from water systems by 2015.

However, current EPA guidelines suggest restricting PFOA and PFOS concentration in drinking water under 70 parts per trillion. According to recent studies, the lifetime exposure to 70 parts per trillion of contamination has no adverse effects on human health. Therefore, removal of these chemicals is required, if extended the limit of 70 ppt.

How to Remove PFOA and PFOS from Water?

According to the studies of EPA, PFOA and PFOS resist the filtration via most of the conventional chemical and microbial filtration techniques. However, the following are three techniques that are proven effective in the removal of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.

  • Activated Carbon Filtration: Activated carbon is known for attracting chemical contaminants in water. When PFOA and PFOS contaminated water passes through the activated carbon filter, the carbon granules trap the micro-contaminants like dissolved chemicals. This a moderately effective method to remove these chemicals from water.
  • Reverse Osmosis: Reverse osmosis (RO) is an effective method of micro-filtration. It is known for the removal of ions, chemicals, and micro-sediment filtration via a semipermeable membrane. Commonly, the reverse osmosis technology is a very effective treatment of drinking water to remove PFOA and PFOS.
  • Ion Exchange: Ion exchange or ionization is a highly effective method of PFOS removal, moderately effective at PFOA removal, and failed in its ability to remove many PFAS. Some newer resins work better using both ion exchange and absorption properties. In this process, the charged resin attracts specific chemical contamination that attach to the surface or are absorbed into the resin resulting in a reduction of PFOA and PFOS ions.

Now that you know how to remove PFOA from drinking water as discussed, you must know that the quality of water purification equipment enhances the quality of water. Therefore, one must source the equipment from prominent companies like Intec America. This US-based company has been offering water treatment solutions such as copper ionization systems to its clients since 1973. They are one of the first few companies to commercialize the NASA-developed water treatment systems. The experience, expertise, and technology selection Intec America offer prove them to be an ideal partner to source your advanced water treatment systems for the removal of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.