PFAS: Present and Future

EM – June 2021: This month, EM considers the persistence of emerging chemical contaminants of concern in the environment and the developing regulatory and compliance strategies to control them.
by Teresa Raine

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), by their very nature, appear to be everywhere. These man-made chemicals have been used the world over for decades in a variety of applications, from food packaging to nonstick household products to flame retardants to sporting equipment to aero-space applications. Common PFAS characteristics that make them attractive for a wide range of uses, to be very resistant in many environments and very persistent over a long time-frame, are the same characteristics that now raise concerns as these compounds do not break down and can accumulate in the environment and the human body.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has observed that most people have likely been exposed to PFAS, given their widespread usage in everyday consumer products and potential exposure from drinking water contamination. Numerous studies on two specific PFAS—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)—have provided evidence of their long-term persistence in the environment and our drinking water, in addition to evidence of adverse, serious health impacts.

The articles in this month's issue help define what PFAS are and where they are found today, what the regulatory landscape for PFAS looks like, and propose different methods for managing these chemicals in our environment.

In the first article, Kathleen Sellers introduces what PFAS are, where they can be found, and begins the discussion of how these wide-reaching groups of chemicals might be categorized and regulated.

Next, Joel Eagle continues the discussion of developing regulations and strategies. This article frames the current state of PFAS regulations with an eye toward future compliance obligations and strategies as PFAS usage and potential environmental impacts continue to be evaluated and better understood.

Focusing in on strategies for managing PFAS, our third article, by Steve Rosansky and Dan Longbrake, looks at specific PFAS management and destruction technologies. This article steps beyond currently available strategies, looking at emerging technologies and management solutions.

In our fourth article, Yu Zhang and coauthors highlight a potential cost-effective and practical method for the removal of PFAS from various water systems.

Furthering the conversation, we invite you to join the 51st Annual A&WMA Critical Review, PFOA and Cancer, by Drs. Scott M. Bartell and Verónica M. Vieira, to be presented during the 114th A&WMA Annual Conference & Exhibition later this month. The full-length paper is published in the June 2021 issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. A summary of the review paper is included in this issue of EM

Continue reading the full June 2021 issue of EM.


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