Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a group of anthropogenic chemicals that have been of increasing concern to the public.
Commonly known as “forever chemicals,” these compounds resist biodegradation and persist in the environment. These characteristics have resulted in the dispersal of these compounds across the globe with detectable levels having been found in surface and ground waters, including remote islands and the Arctic. The ubiquity of these compounds in the environment has resulted in the contamination of food and water, which has led to the ingestion and bioaccumulation of these chemicals in the human body. Alarmingly, PFASs have been detected at the ng/ml range in the blood serum of nearly every person tested for these compounds in the U.S.
Properties such as their persistence, resistance to degradation and ability to repel both oil and water have made PFAS compounds highly desirable for a variety of manufacturing processes. As many as 3,000 PFASs having entered into commerce since their introduction in the 1940s. PFASs have been used for the manufacture of an increasing number of goods, including carpeting, upholstery, food containers, cosmetics and aqueous film-forming foam used in fighting petroleum fires. Due to concerns about their human health effects, the two most studied and understood PFASs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS), have been discontinued from use in the U.S., and have been replaced by other PFASs that typically have a shorter molecular structure.