(Perfluorinated Chemicals)
Potential health impacts

What providers need to know

Click here for to participate in our PFC Q & A

What are PFCs?

PFCs are a family of chemicals with properties that resist heat, stains, and sticking.

Where are PFCs found?

PFCs are not found naturally, are chemically stable, and persistent in the environment.

They are found in common items that we come in contact with everyday. They help repel oil and water in clothing, carpeting, furniture and food packaging including fast food wrappers and are also used in fire fighting foams.

EWG’s Guide to Avoiding PFCs

What are the primary routes of exposure? For children?

Unless you live in an area where water has been contaminated, studies have suggested that the contamination of food with PFCs at low-levels is the most likely source exposure for the general population.

For children, hand-to-mouth transfer from treated carpets is estimated to contribute 40-60% of the uptake in infants, toddlers, and children.

What are the potential health risks of most concern based on the research?

While evidence from current research is compelling, causality has not been definitively established for a wide range of health effects. Many uncertainties and data gaps remain and will require further research. Some health risks that have been reported in human studies include:

Is there fire fighting foam that does not contain PFCs?

In the early 1960’s, 3M and the U.S. Navy developed Class B “aqueous film forming foam” (AFFF) type foams. Class B foams are used on flammable petroleum fires and spills. Some or most Class B foams have had PFCs as part of their formulation, in particular PFOS.

Class A foam has come into widespread use in recent years for wildfire, structure and other fires. Class A foams typically do not contain PFC chemicals (

What standards are used by EPA to shut down water supplies to homes if it is not regulated?

PFC concentrations are not currently regulated in food, water or air, though the EPA is evaluating some PFCs for potential regulatory action.

In 2009, the US EPA issued Provisional Health Advisory Levels for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. These values were calculated assuming an exposure scenario in which a 10 kg child consumes 1 L/day of drinking water. The EPA selected an exposure scenario involving children because children consume more water than adults on a body weight basis, and thus will have a higher exposure to contaminants in drinking water on a body weight basis than adults (

These EPA advisory levels for drinking water are guidance values only. The EPA provisional drinking water guidelines are as follows: PFOA: 0.4 mg/dL and PFOS: 0.2 mg/dL.

In 2012, EPA signed a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for PFCs to limit their use and continues to evaluate the exposure to PFCs on children and other populations, which are more likely to be more sensitive to PFC exposures.

Is it safe to eat fish; how would I know if locally caught fish are high in PFCs?

The consumption of fish is thought to be a major pathway for PFC exposure for people living near PFC contaminated waters. Typically, elevated concentrations of PFCs in fish are found near areas involved in the production or manufacture of PFCs. Both PFOS and PFOA are believed to bioaccumulate in fish, with the result that fish higher up the food chain can accumulate significant concentrations of the chemicals. As a result of the bioaccumulation potential of PFCs in fish and of the unknown health effects of PFCs in humans, Minnesota, Michigan and various other states have issued advisories about limiting or halting the consumption of fish in known PFC contaminated waters (,5885,7-339-73970_71692_8347-277156–,00.html). Check your local health department and/or department of environmental quality to determine if your state has tested for PFCs and provided an advisory.



In the coming month(s) this will be a repository of information for the public as well as health professionals about PFCs. The recent exposure at the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, and the former Air Force Reserve Station, Willow Grove has led to multiple community meetings and dialogues about public health.  This space will be populated with those discussions.