Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): Significance and Considerations within the Regulatory Framework of the USA

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Oct 23;18(21):11142. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182111142.

Abstract

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are an emerging environmental crisis. Deemed forever chemicals, many congeners bioaccumulate and are incredibly persistent in the environment due to the presence of the strong carbon-fluorine covalent bonds. Notable PFAS compounds include perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and GenX. Robust toxicological knowledge exists for these substances, but regulatory decisions based on this knowledge has fallen behind. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has addressed this issue with the PFAS Action Plan and EPA Council on PFAS, but the regulatory framework is severely lacking. Currently, no federal regulations or standards exist. Many occupational and non-occupational human cohorts exist that can lend knowledge on the environmental implications of PFAS and associated health effects. Occupationally, firefighters face significant exposure risks due to use of PFAS containing aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) and personal protective equipment contamination. Non-occupationally, wastewater discharge in North Carolina led to chronic and widespread residential exposure to GenX via drinking water contamination. This public health review seeks to convey the current and future significance of PFAS as an environmental contaminate, to lend considerations on regulatory frameworks within the USA, and to help guide and promote the need for future epidemiological studies in order to tackle this environmental emergency. While the PFAS Action Plan creates a scientific and regulatory foundation, it is important to take these lessons and apply them to future environmental health issues.

Keywords: AFFFs; Chemours; GenX; PFAS; hexafluoropropylene oxide-dimer acid (HFPO-DA); perfluoroalkyl; perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS); perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); polyfluoroalkyl.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids*
  • Fluorocarbons* / analysis
  • Fluorocarbons* / toxicity
  • Humans
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis
  • Water Pollution

Substances

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical