Introduction to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of thousands of human-made chemicals that have been used widely in consumer products and industry since the 1940s. Due to their unique chemical structure, PFAS are extremely stable and repel oil, grease, water, and heat. Despite their long history of use, scientific studies have shown PFAS have serious adverse impacts on human health and the environment, even at very low levels.
The same properties that make PFAS stable also make them extremely resistant to breaking down in the environment (persistent), giving them the nickname “Forever Chemicals.” PFAS also migrate easily in water and air, and because of their persistence, can travel far from where they were used or released to the environment.
PFAS have been manufactured and used worldwide since the 1940s. Due to their chemical stability, heat resistance, and ability to repel oil and water, PFAS are used in thousands of consumer products and industrial processes.
A number of commercial and industrial processes have been identified as potential users and/or producers of PFAS. These locations are considered potential sources of PFAS release to the environment; site-specific investigations are needed to confirm the actual presence and/or use of PFAS by a given facility. Industrial facilities of particular PFAS-related concern include:
- Organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers (OCPSF) manufacturers
- Metal finishing operations
- Scrap metal recycling facilities, particularly those engaged in automobile recycling
- Electroplating facilities
- Electrics and electric components manufacturers
- Pulp and paper manufacturing
- Leather tanning and finishing operations
- Paint formulating operations
- Plastic molding and forming operations
- Textile mills
- Automotive manufacturing facilities
Additional sources of potential PFAS release to the environment that have been identified include any locations that have historically used or stored PFAS-containing fire fighting foam, including firefighting training facilities, airports, military installations, shipyards, chemical plants, bulk fuel transfer facilities, and petroleum refineries.
Consumer products that may contain PFAS include:
- Nonstick cookware
- Coated paper products including grease-resistant food packaging
- Water-resistant and stain-resistant clothing, furniture, and carpets
- Cosmetics and personal care products
- Toilet paper
- Household cleaning products, laundry detergents, carpet cleaners
- Floor, car, boat, and ski waxes
- Fertilizers made from biosolids
The use and eventual disposal of these products contributes to PFAS contamination in landfills, waste incinerator emissions, septic system leakages and wastewater discharges.
Research on the human health and ecological impacts of PFAS is rapidly evolving. Some PFAS have been proven to accumulate within the body (bioaccumulate) in humans and animals when ingested. Certain PFAS have been linked to health risks including developmental effects in fetuses and infants; decreased liver, thyroid, and immune system function; high cholesterol, and kidney and testicular cancer.
For additional PFAS-related health information, private well treatment options, and a list of labs approved by CT DPH for PFAS analysis in Connecticut, visit the DPH PFAS Webpage.
- EPA - Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS
- EPA-Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your PFAS Risk
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) PFAS webpage
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): Learn About PFAS
On July 8, 2019, Governor Ned Lamont established the Connecticut Interagency PFAS Task Force, and tasked DEEP and DPH with serving as co-chairs. The Task Force was charged with developing a comprehensive PFAS strategy for the State that would 1) minimize human health risk for Connecticut residents, 2) minimize future releases of PFAS to the environment, and 3) identify, assess, and clean up historic releases of PFAS to the environment. On November 4, 2019, the Connecticut PFAS Action Plan was finalized.
Since its release, the PFAS Action Plan has served as the road map for DEEP's response to PFAS contamination concerns in Connecticut. DEEP efforts include implementing a ban on the use of fluorinated foam, establishing a foam take-back program, investigation of PFAS contamination in private wells, implementing a ban on the intentional addition of PFAS to food packaging, monitoring PFAS concentrations in surface waters and fish tissues, as well as numerous other actions. To learn more, please visit the following Connecticut PFAS Action Plan implementation webpages:
- Protection of Human Health by Minimizing Environmental Exposure
- Prevention of PFAS Pollution by Minimizing Future Releases
- Identification, Assessment and Cleanup of Historical PFAS Releases
Questions or comments regarding the environmental impacts of PFAS in Connecticut should be sent to DEEP.PFAS@ct.gov.
- PFAS Main Page
- PFAS Information for Homeowners: Private Wells and PFAS
- PFAS Information for Municipalities
- PFAS Information for Environmental Professionals
Content last updated June 15, 2023.