PFAS in San Luis Obispo County
History of PFAS in our Environment
In recent years, health, environmental and regulatory officials around the world have begun to pay strong attention to a group of chemicals that have the potential to cause health problems in humans. Known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), these chemicals have been around since the 1940s and are commonly used in the manufacture of thousands of different consumer products.
PFAS Used in Consumer and Industrial Products
PFAS group chemical are commonly found in food, packaging materials, non-stick cooking surfaces, stain- and water-resistant fabrics, polishes, waxes, paint, cleaning products and fire-fighting foams, among many other consumer products. They are also industrial byproducts of chrome plating, oil recovery and in manufacturing of various electronics components.
PFAS Found in Common Products
- Furniture Fabrics
- Food Packaging
- Water, Grease or Stain Resistant Materials
- Fire Fighting Foam at AirFields
Answering Your Questions
Below are FAQs about PFAS contamination of drinking water and what is being done to find and remove these chemicals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of human-made chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and polyfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) that are not found naturally in the environment. These chemicals have been extensively used around the world in a variety of applications since the 1940s. For example, PFAS are resistant to grease, oil, water, and heat. These specific qualities resulted in the production and wide-spread global use of PFAS beginning in the 1940s in a variety of consumer products, such as non-stick cookware, food containers, stain- and water-resistant fabrics, carpeting and even in dental floss. Some PFAS are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for limited use in cookware, food processing equipment, food packaging and food processing equipment. PFAS have also been used as fire fighting foams and in some industrial processes.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there is evidence that exposure to certain types of PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes to humans. Testing is ongoing to more fully understand the potential impacts to health from various types of PFAS.
PFAS are extensively used world-wide in a broad spectrum of products and industries. PFAS chemicals are found in a variety of commonly manufactured industrial and consumer products, including non-stick cookware, stain resisting textiles, firefighting foams, food packaging, paints, clothing, pesticides, shampoo, fabrics, carpeting and many other products. Due to the extensive use of PFAS, the chemicals have found their way into our environment through disposal in landfills, consumer use of PFAS-containing products, through conventionally treated wastewater, and through outdoor industrial processes. PFAS are persistent in the environment, meaning they do not break down naturally and can accumulate over time.
Public drinking water systems in the county and across the state are subject to the same legal requirements as SLO County’s water systems. They must comply with state and federal water standards for drinking water. Therefore, all California drinking water agencies are subject to testing to determine levels of PFAS.
The drinking water currently supplied by the county to its customers meets state and federal safety standards for drinking water. While there are areas of the county’s groundwater that contain PFAS, the drinking water currently provided by the county to customers is within the strictest state and federal standards and safe for drinking water. The State Division of Drinking Water (DDW) has issued an order to California public water systems with proximity to potential sources of PFAS to test their water regularly. These counties are listed at this DDW webpage: www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/PFOA_PFOS.
Private wells are not currently part of ongoing testing and monitoring. However, the Regional Water Quality Control Board is requiring testing and monitoring of groundwater associated with potential PFAS sources, such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants, airports, and chrome-plating operations. In the future, this process may require testing of nearby private domestic wells.
Laboratory animal studies show that when PFAS have entered the body, they accumulate over time and can potentially lead to such medical conditions as reproductive problems, fetal development issues, and immunological problems. Scientific studies of humans and PFAS ingestion show increased cholesterol levels among those exposed, and impacts to infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, certain types of cancers and disruption of the thyroid function.
PFAS exposure can occur in a variety of ways, such as through food, water, contact with consumer products containing PFAS and even dust in homes. Most significant exposures to PFAS come from drinking water contaminated with PAFAS or by eating contaminated food. Once PFAS are ingested by humans, they can accumulate and remain in the body indefinitely. Scientific data shows that most Americans have some level of PFAS in their blood.
The County continues to work cooperatively with the regional water quality control board to test and evaluate ground water throughout the county to ensure it is safe for county water customers to use. This is an ongoing process in which water test results are evaluated regularly to ensure consumer safety.
In 2009, EPA published provisional health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. As science and technology advanced, in May 2016, it replaced the provisional advisories with a lifetime health advisory, including the most sensitive populations, of a combined 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Based on preliminary information from EPA, 63 water suppliers in the United States detected PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water supplies. Twenty-six of these water systems are located in California. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to states’ agencies and other public health oicials on health eects, analytical methodologies and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. EPA is moving forward with the enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) process for PFOA and PFOS. It is also gathering and evaluating information to determine if regulation is appropriate for a broader class of PFAS. While EPA is responsible for the safety of drinking water, the FDA regulates bottled drinking water. EPA standards are more stringent regarding the regulation of public drinking water.
he following online sources can provide additional information on this topic:
Contact Public Works via web form, email, or call us at (805) 781-5252.