Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic (PFOS) Acid in Drinking Water

What Are PFOA and PFOS?

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic (PFOS) acid are part of a group of chemicals commonly referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) or perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFOA and PFOS are man-made chemicals that up until 2000 have been widely used in the manufacturing of many industrial and consumer products such as paper and cardboard food packaging, insecticides, electronics, stain repellants, paints, plumbing tape, firefighting foam and non-stick cooking surfaces.

Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer. In 2006, eight major companies voluntarily agreed to phase out their global production of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals.

Prior to phasing PFOA and PFOS out of production, large quantities were released into the environment during the manufacturing processes and have been found to have contaminated the drinking water supplies near current or former manufacturing locations.

Potential Health Effects from PFOA and PFOS

Exposure to unsafe levels of PFOA/PFOS concentrations through drinking water may result in health effects including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy, cancer, liver effects, immune effects and thyroid effects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that a new lifetime of exposure health advisory has been established at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of both PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. This EPA health advisory level was established to provide a margin of protection to all Americans as well as those who are immuno-compromised or in special populations (elderly, children).1

What to Do If There Is a PFOA/PFOS Water Advisory

Don’t boil your water.2 Boiling water that contains PFOA/PFOS will actually concentrate the contaminant. Follow the advice of your municipal water authority regarding using water for drinking, cooking, bathing, dish washing, providing to pets or filtering during the advisory.

Water Filters That Reduce PFOA/PFOS

NSF International scientists and public health experts have been testing and certifying products for more than 70 years. Our experts are working to develop test methods for the water treatment systems and filters that can reduce these two chemicals to at least below the EPA health advisory levels. To find products that are NSF certified to reduce PFOA/PFOS in drinking water, visit our web page: NSF Certification Listings for PFOA/PFOS Filters.

For any questions about PFOA/PFOS in drinking water or finding a water filter for your home, please contact the NSF Consumer Information hotline at +1.800.673.8010 or email info@nsf.org


1 EPA – FACT SHEET PFOA & PFOS Drinking Water Health Advisories
2 EPA – Drinking Water Health Advisory for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

close