What is PFOA?

What is a PFOA - NH Tap

Globally, there’s been a spotlight on PFOA and similar chemicals — namely, what these environmental contaminants can do to our bodies. Being called a “forever chemical,” these manufactured elements are highly stable and are used to produce various everyday products.  

Starting in 2016, the US phased out the use of PFOA/PFOS and other PFAS chemicals to keep us all safe from carcinogens practically everywhere. But since these PFOA contaminants have been developed and used for so many years, many are wondering what their risks are and how we can begin to avoid them in our lives.

With all the questions circulating about this compound, we’re going to explore what it is, what products have used it in the past, and which products you should continue to avoid. 

What is PFOA?

Perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA is a compound (C8) created as a byproduct of producing fluoropolymers (PCFs), including electronics, non-stick cookware, and textiles that are stain-resistant. In addition to their practical uses, PCFs are heat stable and don’t break down in the environment. 

This chemical didn’t exist until the 1930s; in the 1950s, it began to be integrated into many household products by DuPont/3M. In 1951, Teflon™ was manufactured, which uses PFOA in the process; in 1953, an employee accidentally discovered that the substance made a water/oil-resistant coating on his shoe, giving way to Scotchgard™. 

Unfortunately, we have since discovered that these chemicals persist in the environment and are carcinogenic. The most dangerous way of absorbing these chemicals is through contaminated water and foods grown with tainted water and soil. 

What is it used in, or what products contain PFOA currently? 

If you’re wondering if PFOA is still being used in cookware, thankfully, it’s not used in most non-stick production. That being said, when the regulations come down on one compound, companies quickly replace them with another similar compound, which may contain similar issues. Some regulation is in the works to eliminate the family of compounds. Still, for now, the best thing to do is avoid non-stick coatings that can endanger the environment with their manufacturing and use.

On May 3, 2019, 180+ countries agreed to ban the use of PFOA as part of the International Stockholm Convention. PFOS and PFOA were banned for manufacturing in the US in 2002 and 2015 but are still part of imported products, from take-out containers and microwaveable popcorn bags to some makeups and clothing particles. 

What does PFOA do to humans?

PFOA is in everyone’s blood but to varying degrees. While more studies need to be conducted to confirm the level of carcinogens and physical risk, we do know that in some studies, the higher the level of PFOA in the body, the higher risk for cholesterol issues, liver impairments, reduced immune systems, and thyroid, kidney, and reproductive harm or cancers. 

In places that are close to old manufacturing plants that used PFOA contaminants, you’ll notice a definite increase in exposure to the chemical through water and soil, as well as an uptick in cancers in those communities. While these causes and effects are still not scientifically vetted, it’s clear that these chemicals impact the human body.

Drinking Water - NH Tap

What Can I Do to Protect My Health from PFOA Contaminants?

Here is a list of PFOA/PFAS regulations by state to help you support the fight against these chemicals in your home and environment. And if you are concerned about your water quality and PFOA exposure, the best prevention is getting a water test and following up with PFOA/PFAS whole-home water filtration as needed. If you’re passionate about this issue, you can find local and state groups working for corporate transparency and accountability for the chemicals spilled in NH and how it’s affecting our lives today.

At NH Tap, we are passionate about eliminating this toxic chemical and PFOA contaminant from our NH waterways and helping our neighbors get the best resources to live a better life for our health and future.

Return to Articles