A Look Into PFAS: What You Should Know

What are PFAS?

PFAS refers to a large and diverse class of human-made chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have been manufactured and used worldwide, particularly in the United States, since the 1940s.

Why are PFAS Important?

These chemicals exist in many common consumer products that we use daily.  They do not break down readily in the environment, meaning they can accumulate over time.

How are we exposed?

Most exposure to PFAS is from drinking water systems. However, they are found in many other places, including:

  • Paper and cardboard food wrappers for fast food and bakery goods
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Commercial household, cosmetics, and personal care products
  • Clothing labeled stain or water-repellent
  • Stain-resistant furniture and carpets
  • The workplace
  • Living organisms

How Can PFAS Affect Our Health?


Chemical structure of Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid; a class of PFAS compound, and the key ingredient in a fabric protector.

Food and water that we consume may contain PFAS, which can accumulate in our bodies.  According to the US EPA, there is evidence that exposure can result in adverse health effects, such as:

  • Low birth weight
  • Effects on the immune system
  • Cancer
  • Thyroid hormone disruption

For more information, please visit EPA’s page.


All PFAS are not the same. And the significant differences across compounds must be considered. Many state and federal regulators are closely examining these substances and are taking action through new laws and regulations.

EPA Announces Proposed Decision to Regulate PFAS in Drinking Water

March 2023 Update – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the nation’s first National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS chemicals. EPA anticipates finalizing the regulation by the end of 2023.

February 2020 Update – The US EPA recently finalized a Significant New Use Rule that gives the agency the authority to review products containing PFAS prior to manufacturing, selling or importing into the US.

US EPA PFAS Action Plan

The US EPA has also outlined concrete steps and its proactive, cross-agency approach to address this and protect public health. Read more.

The industry is continuing to learn more about this class of chemicals and their effect on humans and the ecology. We pride ourselves in staying on the leading edge of environmental issues to meet our clients’ ever-changing needs.

While the EPA develops health-based regulations, several states continue to develop their own requirements. Manufacturers of PFAS compounds are developing safer substitutes, but compounds that are currently in the environment will persist. Government agencies and chemical manufacturers, assisted by environmental consultants, are defining the extent of the impact on the environment in drinking water sources such as rivers, lakes, wells, and public water treatment systems, and remediation technologies are being developed.

Contact Us

For more information on our Environmental services, please contact Environmental Service Line Leader, Sam Watts at swatts@smeinc.com.