What are the potential health impacts of PFAS?

  • Due to their persistent nature in the environment and human body, over 2,000 studies have been conducted regarding potential health impacts of PFOA and PFOS.
  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has described the science regarding potential human health effects of PFOA and PFOS as “inconclusive”. This means that results across studies are inconsistent and there is not a scientific consensus on how to best use the data to inform human health risks.
  • The CDC, which does not recommend individual blood tests, notes that “health effects can be caused by many different factors and there is no way to know if PFAS exposure has caused health problems or made them worse.”
  • Because there has been no convergence of the science, the CDC also acknowledges that “[c]onfirmatory research is needed” regarding the potential health effects of PFOA and PFOS.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control, PFAS are a “possible health concern” because:

“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 are extremely persistent in the environment and resistant to typical environmental degradation processes.  The pathway for dispersion of these chemicals appears to be long-range atmospheric and oceanic currents transport.  Several PFAS and their potential precursors are ubiquitous in a variety of environments.  Some long-chain PFAS bioaccumulate in animals and can enter the human food chain.

PFOS and PFOA are two of the most studied PFAS.  Exposure to PFOA and PFOS is widespread and global.  PFOS and PFOA also persist in the human body and are eliminated slowly.  Both PFOS and PFOA can be found in blood, and at much lower levels in urine, breast milk and in umbilical cord blood.

PFOS and PFOA may pose potential adverse effects for human health given their potential toxicity, mobility, and bioaccumulation potential.  The likelihood of adverse effects depends on several factors such as amount and concentration of PFAS ingested as well as the time span of exposure.”