How To Remove PFAS From Tap Water

How to Remove PFAS from tap water

I work in the water quality division for a state-funded program that deals with PFAS, and just to help put your mind at ease, your local water treatment plant and wastewater treatment plants are doing all they can to remove PFAS from your water. That being said, you hear about stories like Flint, Michigan and you wonder if people in positions of power are gambling with your life to make a quick buck or get re-elected.

What Are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – commonly known as forever chemicals. PFAS are a family of manmade chemicals that are used in a wide variety of products, primarily for waterproofing or fire prevention. An example would be firefighting spray or foam. Once it’s sprayed out, it can easily contaminate the drinking water source by rain flushing the streets. They are called forever chemicals because they remain in the environment, and refuse to go away.

And it’s not just firefighting foam that contains PFAS. Here is a list of items that we use every day that can contaminate our waters:

  • Food containers (think fast-food)
  • Nonstick cookware
  • Child seats
  • Cleaning products
  • Carpeting
  • Furniture
  • Water resistant clothing

These days just about everything has a fire-prevention element to it. Back in the day, it’s what was used to prevent fires from starting or spreading too fast. PFAS are a very effective fire preventing chemical but were finding that it comes at a cost.

How Dangerous are PFAS

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF) “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says exposure to two types of PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – may cause birth defects, cancer, and thyroid issues, among other health problems, when present in drinking water. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are among the most common groundwater contaminants in the PFAS family.” There is also evidence that these chemicals can cause harm to your skin or your lungs if inhaled via vapors.

Contaminants like iron, arsenic and even lead are probably in your water, but they are diluted down so much that they aren’t harmful. Newer contaminants like PFAS are still being studied so regulating these chemicals is still a work in progress. But the scary thing is, how long have they been in our water, how much have we already consumed, and how bad are the effects.

How Am I Exposed to PFAS

The amount of exposure we get to PFAS is relatively low. Unless you develop these chemicals and inhaling the vapors the chances of any severe reactions are pretty low.

That being said, we can get exposure to these chemicals in a variety of ways:

  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Eating fish that contain PFAS
  • Accidentally swalling or inhaling dust contaminated with PFAS
  • Using a wide variety of home consumer products (see list above) that contain PFAS

How To Test For PFAS

Testing is one of the first steps to determining if and how significant your potential PFAS contamination might be. Unfortunately, a lot of the home test kits you find online don’t test for PFAS. They will test for a variety of other contaminants but the number of home test kits for PFAS is very limited. Tap Score Home Testing is one of the most reliable home PFAS testing kits you can use to test your water.

If you’re looking to get a very robust home test that will test for things like lead, bacteria, hardness, and a host of other contaminants the 17 in 1 Varify test kit will do the trick.

How To Remove PFAS From Drinking Water

In the past 10-15 years there were a number of pitchers or basic water filters that came out to primarily remove taste and odor from tap water. These older generation water filters can help remove PFAS (somewhere between 30%-70%) but it’s not what these filters were designed for. It’s time to step up your home water filter.

The good news is, if your local treatment plants are subpar or antiquated, there are home water treatment systems you can set up to help remove PFAS from your drinking water. The EPA has identified a few ways to remove PFAS from your drinking water before it goes into your glass.

Types of Water Filters To Remove PFOS and PFOA.

According to EPA, here are the current ways to remove PFAS:

  • Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) – Chemicals like PFAS stick to the small pieces of carbon as the water passes through.
  • Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC) – The carbon is powdered and is added to the water. The chemicals then stick to the powdered carbon as the water passes through.
  • Ion Exchange Resins –Small beads (called resins) are made of hydrocarbons that work like magnets. The chemicals stick to the beads and are removed as the water passes through. 
  • Nanofiltration and reverse osmosis –A process where water is pushed through a membrane with small pores. The membrane acts like a wall that can stop chemicals and particles from passing into drinking water.

If you’re looking to install a Point of Use (POU) system a simple reverse osmosis water filter will do the trick. However, if you obtain your water from a community water system, your water is likely to contain other contaminants such as arsenic, uranium, radon, manganese, nitrate, and bacteria that present health risks and that are naturally occurring or originate from nearby land uses. In which case a full house water treatment system might be best.

Keep in mind, these upgraded water filters do require maintenance and upkeep. There are filters that will need to be swapped out, and any replacement components are changed to keep them working properly. As nice as it would be to set it up and forget about it, that’s just not the case.

Wrapping Up Removing PFAS From Drinking Water

PFAS are just a few of the newest contaminants that the EPA is looking at. The EPA is tasked with regulations of these contaminants and it takes time to develop standards, to keep our drinking water safe. The best thing we can do is put backup measures in place to keep our water safe for consumption.

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