What’s going on?
Otherwise known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), ‘forever chemicals’ are a class of more than 4,700 highly stable manmade chemicals that do not naturally degrade, causing them to accumulate in the environment and in living organisms. PFAS have been used in a variety of products since the 1940s, including stain and water-repellents, as well as in industrial processes such as the production of fire suppressant foams. Production of PFAS decreased in the U.S. in the early 2000s, but they are still widely used in products and industries.
Military bases, firefighter training facilities, and airports are among the largest contributors to PFAS pollution in Florida due to the use of fire suppressant foam produced with PFAS. As of 2021, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has confirmed the presence of PFOA and PFOS, the two most common types of PFAS, in the soil and/or groundwater at 20 federal facilities in Florida. Three military bases in Florida have also made the Department of Defense’s list of the 50 most highly contaminated sites, but it could be years before cleanups are complete, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Why it matters.
While the long-term health implications are still under investigation, PFAS exposure can lead to increased risk of several types of cancer, reproductive effects, immune system issues, and more. New drinking water health advisories by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest that PFOA and PFOS are more harmful than previously believed. The advisories cut the “lifetime safety limits” of these chemicals from 70 parts per trillion to nearly zero.
Research projects by the University of Florida, Florida International University, and University of Miami are investigating the impacts of PFAS on Florida’s environment. New findings show that the Indian River Lagoon is facing widespread PFAS pollution, raising concerns for the ecosystem stability of North America’s most biologically diverse estuary.
Earlier this week, legislation was passed requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to begin adopting statewide rules to clean up PFAS in drinking water, groundwater, and soil. Federal action against PFAS is also increasing – including the establishment of the PFAS Strategic Roadmap by the EPA in 2021.
What you can do.
- Follow health advisories by the EPA to keep your exposure at a healthy level
- Determine if your drinking water is above the safe level of PFAS
- Avoid eating fish from waterways impacted by PFAS
- Check to see if products are made with PFAS before buying
- Learn more
- EPA – up to date information on what we know about PFAS
- Fight For Zero – a nonprofit fighting against PFAS pollution in Florida
Visit this site for an interactive map of sites currently documented to be contaminated by PFAS.