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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of anthropogenic emerging contaminants. Some PFAS have been voluntarily phased out, as exposure has been linked to adverse human health effects.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of emerging contaminants that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), hexafluoropropylene oxide-dimer acid (more commonly known as GenX®), and many other compounds.
Since the 1940s, PFAS have been manufactured and used around the globe, including in the United States, in a variety of industries such as firefighting foam for flammable liquids. These chemicals are very persistent in the environment, and some PFAS are known to accumulate over time in the human body and in the food chain. Exposure to some PFAS has been linked to adverse human and ecosystem health effects.
PFAS-containing firefighting foams have been widely used at military installations, petroleum refineries, chemical manufacturing plants, civilian airports and fire-training facilities. PFAS are also found in a wide range of consumer products such as cookware, fast-food wrappers and containers, and stain and water repellents, and can lead to human exposure. PFAS are also widely used in a variety of industrial products such as paint, detergents, waxes, and metal plating solution. The most-studied PFAS chemicals are PFOA and PFOS. Studies have linked PFOS and PFOA to numerous health effects including reproductive, developmental, liver, endocrine, and immunological effects. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animals. PFOA, PFOS, perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and other PFAS have been found in a number of drinking water systems in the Northeast.
There are numerous large PFAS-contaminated groundwater plumes and impacted surface water bodies throughout the Northeast Atlantic-Appalachian Region (NAAR). Water availability can be impacted by contamination. PFAS contamination in the NAAR has a high likelihood to impact drinking water and human health in these densely populated areas, where water supplies are already stressed.
The scope of PFAS contamination in the US is extensive. USGS development of field methods, assessment of water quality and ecosystem effects, and research findings on PFAS, including fate and transport processes and viable techniques for site remediation, will support federal, state, and local site managers, regulatory agencies, and private remediation firms.
USGS science projects associated with current PFAS studies:
USGS data or web applications associated with PFAS studies:
Publications associated with USGS PFAS studies:
News stories associated with USGS PFAS studies: