What is happening with PFAs and PFOs, “the forever chemicals”? These are the per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances used in just about everything we use. These chemicals are in 12,000 plus compounds and have been around for decades. More awareness on how to handle these compounds and potentially restrict or ban them from products is emerging. At this time it is known that PFAs and PFOs are in almost every product available to the public as most well known in fire retardant, which has caused pollution to water systems and health concerns for fire fighting equipment. New rules in that industry are restricting use of those products depending on the fire type.
Colorado is now a leader in passing legislation, HB 22-1345 that restricts use of PFAs in household products such as carpets, draperies, juvenile clothing and labeling on cookware to name a few. It is a gradual roll out but more products will be included in 2025 with textiles and upholstery. But vigilance is required. Microplastics in the environment have PFAs as part of the make up and that can create a risk. The consumer may want to ask: do I need this product? Is it worth it? And are there other options? There is also a website to see what the latest information is. That is PFAsCentral.org.
In the state of Colorado PFAs have been tested in wastewater treatment plants (effluent) and biosolds. There are baselines in water treatment plants. The EPA will be publishing standards for drinking water at the end of 2023. At this time there is no good solution as to how to treat for removal. One suggestion for home owners is to install a activated carbon filter, but speak with your public water system first and see what they are doing. There have been suggested take back programs, but who would be organizing this? The state bans have been critical in reducing the amount of products with PFAs in the market.
At this time there have been a variety of approaches to destroying these very strong carbon-fluorine compounds. One of these is reverse osmosis, another is super critical water oxidation. But it appears incineration with temperatures of at least 1000 degrees Celsius is about 99.9% destructive. At this time there are about 15-20 incinerators in the US developed by a company called Clean Harbors that are handling this waste product.