PFAS, PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS and 1,4-Dioxane: what you need to know

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Pittsboro’s board of commissioners has voted to investigate upstream Haw River polluters and seek litigation against them for discharging PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane. Simultaneously, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced new health advisories and water quality standards for PFOA, PFOS, GenX and PFBS, something many activists said is a step in the right direction.

Here are some important facts you should know about each of these compounds:

What are PFAS?

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which make up an entire family of chemical compounds. Thousands of chemicals fall into this category; they can be found in products such as nonstick cookware, waterproof jackets, food packaging, firefighting foam and more.

The PFAS class of chemicals is dangerous because they can accumulate in the body over time, which can lead to health issues years after an initial exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 95% of Americans have been exposed to PFAS at some point in their lives.

What’s the difference between PFAS and PFOA, PFOS, GenX and PFBS?

PFOA and PFOS are chemicals within the PFAS family; GenX and PFBS are their own separate chemicals. PFOA and PFOS have been known to impact the immune and cardiovascular systems and are considered.

GenX has been linked to health conditions affecting the liver, the kidney, and the immune system; it’s also considered a carcinogen. PFBS, also a carcinogen, has been known to impact the thyroid and developing fetuses.

What are the new advisories set by the EPA?

The EPA has announced new health advisories for four chemical compounds — PFOA, PFOS, GenX and PFBS. New recommended advisory levels are:

• Interim PFOA level: 0.004 parts per trillion

• Interim PFOS level: 0.02 parts per trillion

• Final GenX level: 100 parts per trillion

• Final PFBS level: 2,000 parts per trillion

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at or on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.


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