The family of fluorinated compounds known as PFAS pose a risk to humans as they are associated with causing significant health conditions. How to remove these toxic fluorinated chemicals from your tap water and make it safe to drink? Read more >>
PFC and PFAS chemicals – the fluorinated compounds as a danger to humans and the environment
The extent of perfluorinated and polyfluorinated substances (PFC, PFAS) in drinking water and the removal of these toxic fluorinated chemicals from your tap water have come under scrutiny in recent years. From a toxicological point of view, these substances are highly problematic due to their large number of around 4,700 different compounds and their possible health effects on humans and their remains in the environment. These chemicals are suspected of causing cancer, thyroid disorders, a weakened immune system and developmental disorders, low birth weight in babies, reduced sperm count and shrinking penis size, and other unknown health effects. Mothers and young children may be most vulnerable to the chemicals, affecting reproductive and developmental health. One thing is for sure: no one wants them in their body.
PFC and PFAS – An invisible threat for humanity and our environment
PFASs have been accumulating in the environment and (human) organisms worldwide for decades. Studies have found measurable concentrations of the substances in the blood serum of entire urban populations in the US, fish in the ocean and birds in the air. At the same time, knowledge about the possible health consequences of this exposure is growing. Some of the PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” as they don’t break down in the environment or the human body. These chemical alkyl compounds are determined to be virtually indestructible. As a result, they become an ever-greater problem for people and the environment worldwide and in New Zealand.
The success story of a creeping poison – PFAS in our everyday life
The story of PFASs began about 80 years ago in the factories of DuPont and 3M. There, experts discovered the substances perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which were soon praised as miracle cures in Teflon or waterproofing spray. PFOA and PFOS are the two best-known and best-studied representatives of the PFASs, of which more than 4,730 are known today. Their unique chemical and physical properties, such as stain and water repellency, temperature, and chemical resistance, are used in a wide range of consumer goods and industrial applications like fire-fighting foams. These chemicals are found in plastic containers and food packaging, waterproof sportswear, fragrances in cleaning products, soaps and shampoos, electronics and carpeting. From there, they get into the environment and New Zealand’s drinking water.
A water filter for PFAS free NZ drinking water
Drinking water is one of the most common sources of exposure to PFAS contamination. These chemicals could also contaminate the drinking water found in New Zealand. Currently, there is no mandatory testing for these chemicals in town water. If you know or suspect these chemicals are in your tap water, the best way to protect yourself is by installing an in-home water filter. But which kind?
Based on health agencies, testing labs, scientific researchers, and water filter companies, the most effective choice for in-home treatment of PFAS-tainted tap water is a reverse osmosis filter, followed by a slightly lower-cost option, an activated carbon filter.
Reverse osmosis water filter versus activated-carbon filters
A new 2020 study by Duke University and North Carolina State University in the US found that – while any filter is better than none – many standard household filters only partially remove harmful PFAS substances from drinking water. Some filters can even make the situation worse if they are not properly maintained.
“We tested 76 point-of-use filters and 13 point-of-entry or whole-house systems and found their effectiveness varied widely,” said Heather Stapleton, the Dan and Bunny Gabel Associate Professor of Environmental Health at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “All of the under-sink reverse osmosis and two-stage filters achieved near-complete removal of the PFAS chemicals we were testing for,” Stapleton said. “In contrast, the effectiveness of activated-carbon filters used in many pitcher, countertop, refrigerator and faucet-mounted styles was inconsistent and unpredictable. The whole-house systems were also widely variable and in some cases increased PFAS levels in the water.”
To read the full report click here.
Key findings comparing reverse osmosis filters and activated carbon filters for efficient removal of harmful PFAS contaminants
- Reverse osmosis filters and two-stage filters reduced PFAS levels, including GenX, by 94% or more in water. However, the small number of two-stage filters tested necessitates further testing to determine why they performed well.
- Activated-carbon filters removed 73% of PFAS contaminants, on average, but results varied greatly. In some cases, the filter entirely removed the chemicals; in other cases, the PFAS concentration could not be reduced at all. Researchers saw no clear trends between removal efficiency and filter brand, age or source water chemical levels.
What does this mean in NZ for Kiwis?
More research needs to be done on NZ testing for PFEAs fluorinated chemicals in drinking water on our local water supplies. Acceptable levels need to be found, discussed and established so that they can be implemented nationwide. Homeowners should only use a trusted, tested filtration product, either a reputable under bench filter or a whole-house filter, or ideally both.
Current research from the scientists of Duke University and North Carolina State University has shown that the reverse osmosis filtration technology is the way of the future in the fight against PFAS contamination in our drinking water.
Aqua Works – a competent partner in making your water fluoride free and safe to drink
If you need more information or would like to book an appointment for us to look at installing an under bench reverse osmosis filtration system, give us a call on 0800 278 288. We are passionate about water and supporting you and your family to enjoy safe, potable water from every tap of your home.
Auckland Council (n.d.). ‘Investigation into PFAS compounds in Auckland’, Auckland Council. Available at: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/environment/air-quality-pollution-contamination/Pages/pfas-investigation-auckland.aspx (Accessed: 20 April 202).
Brockovich, E. (2021). ‘Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity’, The Guardian, 18 March. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/18/toxic-chemicals-health-humanity-erin-brokovich (Accessed: 20 April 202).
EWG Science Team (2018). ‘Removing Toxic Fluorinated Chemicals From Your Home’s Tap Water’, EWG, September 5. Available at: https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/removing-toxic-fluorinated-chemicals-your-homes-tap-water (Accessed: 20 April 202).
Herkert, N. J., Merrill, J., Peters, C., Bollinger, D., Zhang, S., Knappe, D. R.U., Hoffman, K., Ferguson, P. L. and Stapleton, H. M. (2020). ‘Assessing the Effectiveness of Point-of-Use Residential Drinking Water Filters for Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)’, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 5 Februar. Available at: https://nicholas.duke.edu/news/not-all-home-drinking-water-filters-completely-remove-toxic-pfas#:~:text=A%20new%20study%20by%20scientists,as%20PFAS%2C%20from%20drinking%20water (Accessed: 20 April 202).