Lately You’ve Heard of PFAS, PFOS, PFOA, and GENX, but What Are They?

As many are aware, lead is a harmful heavy metal that was once used extensively in city water mains, building piping, and valves and fixtures throughout homes and businesses. Although replacing all of these old pipes is an enormous task, it is crucial to do so to mitigate the effects of lead poisoning, which can cause developmental and health issues in children and babies, and in higher doses, even adults can suffer from cardiovascular, kidney, and reproductive damage.

Another contaminant of concern is a large group known as per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, also referred to as PFAS, PFOS, PFOA, GENX, and other complicated acronyms. Because these names are hard to pronounce and remember, and these substances are nearly impossible to remove from water supplies, many have resorted to calling them “forever chemicals.” Forever chemicals are synthetic substances often associated with non-stick chemicals used in common household and industrial products and firefighting foams used at airports and military facilities. Groundwater contamination has occurred at many sites around the U.S. where these chemicals have been utilized or dumped, and as groundwater travels, so do these chemicals.

Due to these problems, it is important to understand how to remove lead and forever chemicals from drinking water supplies. Distillation and reverse osmosis are effective methods for removing these contaminants from water, but ion-exchange systems are ineffective. GAC (granular activated carbon) media also is a good option for removing lead and forever chemicals, but it’s important to note that not all carbon media is designed and tested to remove forever chemicals effectively and only a handful of them are designed to remove lead effectively. It’s critical to read the fine print when choosing a carbon media. Products tested to an NSF standard for lead and PFAS removal are usually the best bet. Some breakthrough systems are tested and certified to remove both substances simultaneously.

Even in trace amounts, it is essential to be aware of the dangers of lead and forever chemicals, as they can cause serious health problems as mentioned. For more information on removing lead, forever chemicals, or other harmful contaminants, view WCC’s video, Removing Lead and ‘Forever Chemicals’ from Water, or contact WCC (Water Control Corp.).

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