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Fighting PFC Contamination

Read CCE's report on Long Island PFC contamination

Per (or poly) fluorinated chemicals, known as PFCs, are a family of chemicals widely used to make water-, grease-, and stain-repellent coatings, and for other purposes in a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications. There are many PFCs, but PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate) are two of the most widely used and widely detected chemicals. PFCs are very persistent in the environment and the human body and are linked to serious health effects. There is currently no drinking water standard for PFCs, and these contaminants have been detected in Long Island water supply wells.

Check out CCE's interactive map to see if there is a known or possible PFC contamination site near you!

Where Do PFCs Come From?

Most PFCs are man-made and have been used in many products. One source is in firefighting foams used to fight fuel fires. This use, although phased out of formulation in 2004, was recently linked to contamination of drinking water on Long Island. PFCs were also used in non-stick coatings on cookware (i.e., Teflon, which was largely reduced by 2010 and eliminated by 2015 as part of a voluntary agreement between manufacturers and the US EPA). Additionally, PFCs were used in non-stick carry-out and fast food containers, fireproof coatings common in carpet and foam furniture, and waterproofing treatments on leather, shoes, and rain gear.

Why Should I Be Concerned?

PFCs have the potential to be a widespread contaminant of concern. Although they were phased out from many manufacturers' products, PFCs are very persistent in our environment, and releases from many years ago may still impact us today. Even though they are largely removed from the final products, some companies continue to use PFCs as part of the manufacturing process.

The EPA's Health Advisory Level, which indicates the potential for a human health hazard, begins at levels as low as .07 parts per billion (ppb) for PFOA and PFOS. Some of the Long Island contamination sites have detected PFC levels over the EPA's Health Advisory Level, including the Firematics Fire Training Facility in Yaphank, which had detections as high as 2.54 ppb. There is currently NO enforceable drinking water standard for PFCs.

What Should We Do?

CCE's 4-Point Action Plan to Address PFC Contamination on Long Island

  1. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) needs to work in conjunction with Nassau County and Suffolk County to accurately identify all fire training facilities, fire departments, and airports that used or stored fire suppressant foam containing PFCs.
  2. NYS DEC needs to work with local health departments to install and evaluate monitoring wells down-gradient from any facility discovered to be the source of PFC contamination or known to have used or stored PFC-containing fire suppressant foam.
  3. New York State needs to provide funding in the 2018-19 budget for Suffolk County Department Health Services to upgrade its laboratory to include testing equipment for PFCs. Currently, all Long Island samples for PFCs are sent to the Wadsworth Facility in the Capitol Region for testing, causing a backlog and delay in results.
  4. New York needs to establish a health-based drinking water standard for PFCs as quickly as possible.

Updated by bsmith 12/4/17