News from CRIS: Real-time Science - PFAS Compounds

May 2, 2023

Science evolves as research and evidence grow to help us determine the safety of an ingredient, contaminant, or technology. However, headlines around ingredient safety are often faster than the research concluding an ingredient's harm or safety profile.

We may not immediately know if a compound or process is safe, but we can provide context and background in our new series called "Real-time Science."

In our first post of this series, we look at a community request: PFAS compounds.

What are PFAS compounds?

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of human-made chemicals of more than 9,000 compounds of which approximately 600 are currently in use.

PFAS compounds possess strong carbon-fluorine bonds, making them highly resistant to environmental degradation, which means that once released, they can be persistent environmental contaminants.

Researchers have also connected legacy PFAS ingredients with adverse health outcomes in animal studies, often at doses well above those encountered by people and by associations in epidemiology studies. However, more research is needed to evaluate the long-term safety of newer PFAS ingredients.

What types of products contain PFAS ingredients?

While legacy PFAS ingredients have been phased out of production, newer PFAS ingredients remain in use, and we can find them in various industrial, commercial, and consumer products:

  • Firefighting foams: PFAS have been widely used in firefighting foams to extinguish fires involving flammable liquids, such as gasoline, oil, and jet fuel.

  • Stain-resistant coatings: PFAS are used in coatings on carpets, furniture, and clothing to make them resistant to water, grease, and stains.

  • Non-stick cookware: PFAS have been used in producing non-stick coatings for cookware.

  • Food packaging: PFAS are used in some food packaging materials to prevent grease from soaking through.

  • Water-resistant clothing and shoes: PFAS are used in some outdoor clothing, such as rain jackets, to make them water-resistant.

  • Personal care products: PFAS are sometimes used in personal care products, such as dental floss or makeup, to make them water-resistant.

  • Cleaning products: PFAS are sometimes used in cleaning products to improve performance.

  • Electronics: PFAS are used in some electronic products, such as semiconductors, to improve their performance.

Are PFAS, PFOS, and PFOA compounds the same chemical? Are the terms interchangeable?

PFAS, PFOS, and PFOA compounds are not interchangeable terms.

While there are more than 9,000 Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), there are two legacy PFAS compounds in particular that are highly studied: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

So, PFOS and PFOA describe two PFAS compounds, just as apples and oranges describe two fruits.


To continue reading the entire blog post, visit: