Minimizing Environmental Exposure to PFAS
Key recommendations of the Connecticut PFAS Action Plan identified to minimize Connecticut residents’ exposure to PFAS included testing drinking water and assessing food related PFAS exposure pathways.
Specifically, DEEP was tasked with 1) identifying and prioritizing testing of private drinking water wells proximal to areas with suspected or confirmed PFAS contamination and 2) identifying, evaluating, and prioritizing other potential sources of human exposure to PFAS, including fish and shellfish and food service ware. More recently, the public has also inquired about environmental and health concerns related to the potential presence of PFAS in artificial turf fields.
Identification and clean-up of PFAS-contaminated private wells is a priority for DEEP. DEEP has so far initiated testing of private wells in relation to specific PFAS investigations undertaken by the agency in the communities of Canton, Chester, East Hampton, Greenwich, Groton, Killingworth, New Fairfield, Thompson, Windham, and Windsor Locks. Working in close cooperation with the Department of Public Health (DPH), DEEP is currently working to identify new funding sources to support additional private well sampling for PFAS in communities most vulnerable to potential PFAS contamination.
In cases where private well concentrations exceeded the DPH drinking water action levels for PFAS, DEEP has provided short-term support to homeowners (in concert with DPH, local health and the municipality) by providing bottled water and assisting with the installation of filtration systems. Efforts are also focused on working with the municipality and local health department to identify the source of the well contamination and develop a long-term solution.
DEEP has conducted several PFAS-focused surface water and fish tissue studies in collaboration with the CT Department of Public Health (DPH). Neither DEEP nor DPH have a dedicated funding source for such sampling efforts, therefore the limited monitoring conducted to-date has focused on protecting public health by targeting waters suspected to be contaminated by PFAS. The resultant data are used to inform water quality assessments as well as fish consumption advisories for the public.
It is a goal of the agency to conduct a statewide surface water and fish tissue study to explore PFAS levels in sport fish tissue and surface water in urban as well as rural areas. These data are necessary to develop water quality criteria and to establish a statewide PFAS-based fish consumption advisory. DEEP will continue to advocate for a dedicated source of funding for future PFAS surface water and fish tissue testing. In the meantime, to supplement the existing data gap, DEEP and DPH actively support research conducted by the University of Connecticut and other academic institutions, including assisting with sample collection. DEEP also participates in national surveys coordinated by US EPA that provide limited additional site-specific PFAS tissue information.
These PFAS data collected by DEEP and partners is evaluated by CT DPH to determine whether fish from a given waterbody are safe to consume in unlimited quantities or whether a waterbody-specific fish consumption advisory is warranted to protect public health. To learn more about local PFAS-based consumption advisories, anglers and others who may eat fish caught from Connecticut’s waters are advised to consult the most recent issue of DPH’s publication "If I Catch It, Can I Eat It? A Guide to Eating Fish Safely." Fish consumption advisories exist throughout the state for PFAS as well as other chemicals.
- DEEP Surface Water and Fish Tissue PFAS Studies
- CT Fish Consumption Advisory and the Safe Eating of Fish Caught in Connecticut
In Connecticut, shellfish testing (e.g., oysters and clams) is overseen by the Department of Agriculture's (DoAg) Bureau of Aquaculture. In order to evaluate the risk of PFAS contamination in shellfish collected from Connecticut's shoreline, DoAg partnered with the University of Connecticut and the Greenwich Shellfish Commission in 2020 to study PFAS in shellfish collected from Greenwich, CT. Encouragingly, PFAS were not detected in any of the oyster samples analyzed through that study. Since this time, the University of Connecticut has continued to refine its methods for evaluating PFAS in shellfish and in 2023, will again be partnering with the Bureau of Aquaculture to evaluate PFAS levels in oysters collected in the New Haven area. Results will be reported upon publication.
- Department of Agriculture - Emily Marquis (firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-874-0696 x124)
- University of Connecticut - Chris Perkins (email@example.com or 860-486-2668)
- Final Project Report: Fate and Transport of Per- and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) in Water, Sediments, and Oysters in Greenwich Near-Shore Waters of Long Island Sound (2020)
- 2022 Connecticut Shellfish Commission Gathering Presentation: "PFAS Update"
- Scientific Journal Article: Quantification of PFAS in Oyster Tissue Using a Rapid QuEChERS Extraction Followed by UPLC-MS/MS Analysis (Campbell et al. 2023)
In response to the Connecticut PFAS Action Plan, the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) was charged with issuing new state contracts that specifically ban PFAS. These contracts are mandatory for State Agencies and are also available for use by all political subdivisions of the state (i.e., municipalities.) Consequently, a statewide contract was issued banning PFAS and related chemicals in food service products.
PFAS may be present in food service ware. This presents a direct public health concern as well as an indirect concern if these materials are incorporated into composting systems. Composting is a great way to reuse resources and reduce the amount of solid waste produced by your household or organization. However, DEEP staff are working to educate composters regarding the potential for accidental PFAS-contamination of compost through inclusion of PFAS-containing food service ware. DEEP encourages consumers to purchase products and packaging that are BPI Certified. These products have been reviewed by an independent third-party in order to verify that they do not contain a variety of chemicals, including fluorinated compounds (i.e., PFAS). Food can safely be consumed using these items and the service ware can then also be composted alongside food scraps without negatively impacting compost quality.
DEEP's Sustainable Materials Management Program is particularly interested in working with schools engaged in obtaining PFAS-free food service ware. In particular, DEEP is interested in working with schools that want to identify compostable PFAS-free food service ware for inclusion in their food waste composting programs. Schools interested in ensuring their composting program is PFAS-free are also encouraged to check out the Zero Waste Schools Coalition. The Coalition was formed to create a platform for schools in Connecticut and beyond to connect, learn and share ways to introduce or enhance programming to reduce waste in our schools. In addition to requesting products with BPI certification, Coalition members use the Center for Environmental Health's (CEH) recommended list of food ware to limit unwanted chemicals, including PFAS, in school waste streams. (Food ware, or food service ware, includes things like containers, bowls, plates, trays, cups, lids, napkins, take out containers, etc.)
- DAS is working to remove PFAS from our State’s Environment (12/13/2022 blog post)
- DEEP Webinar: How to Avoid PFAS in Your Food Service Ware (August 28, 2019)
- BPI Certification - Fluorinated Chemicals
- Zero Waste Schools Coalition Website
- Center for Environmental Health (CEH) Foodware Webpage
- GreenScreen PFAS-free Certified Products (Includes food service ware, cleaners and degreasers, furniture and fabrics, firefighting foam, and textile chemicals)
There is significant public interest regarding the environmental impact of artificial or synthetic turf fields, most recently in relation to PFAS. DEEP is actively reviewing peer-reviewed scientific research results available to determine what, if any, PFAS-specific environmental impacts are associated with artificial turf. Given that this is an emerging area of research there is a very limited number of studies available to consider.
It is unclear whether installed artificial turf is a source of PFAS contamination to soil, surface water, and/or ground water. Interpretation of monitoring results is complicated by the presence of PFAS in air and rainwater. Studies that do not account for this are of limited utility for determining the environmental impact of synthetic turf, because it is unclear whether PFAS present in samples originated from the turf material, rainwater, or air deposition. Similarly, studies that measure PFAS in surface water and groundwater without also collecting flow data have limitations. For example, PFAS concentrations in a stream may become diluted (decrease) during periods of significant rainfall and 'high flow.' Such concentrations can also become concentrated and appear to increase during periods of limited precipitation and lower stream flows. Comparing high flow data to low flow data can provide misleading results. To-date, DEEP is aware of only one peer-reviewed published field study (Lauria et al. 2022); although PFAS can be present in the turf material, the results of this study indicated that fluorinated substances remain bound to the turf material and are not released to the environment.
DEEP will continue to review new research as it is published and will utilize the best available science to inform any PFAS-related artificial turf actions or decisions.
- CT DPH Artificial Turf Information Webpage
- Federal Research on Recycled Tire Crumb Used on Playing Fields (2016-2019 EPA Study)
- CT DEEP Risk Assessment of Artificial Turf Fields (2010 Connecticut Study)
Questions or comments regarding the environmental impacts of PFAS in Connecticut should be sent to DEEP.PFAS@ct.gov.
Related DEEP Webpages
Content last updated August 8, 2023