There is growing concerned about the safety of contamination due to PFAS persistence in the environment and the potential for contaminated drinking water sources.
Water contamination through PFAS is a serious environmental concern because it affects drinking water, groundwater, and surface water (such as rivers and lakes). It can be hard to know if drinking water has PFAS in it or how much you should worry about.
Most of what we eat and drink has been packaged in food and beverage cans. Some of those cans might have been lined with the chemicals called Per- and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS). Recent tests showed a high amount of PFAS in public drinking water systems around.
Private drinking water supplies can be contaminated with PFAS from industrial spills, manufacturing, and military fire training activities. These chemicals are also showing up in wells used for drinking water.
In this article, we will discuss in detail what causes PFAS contamination, how it gets into your water, and what you can do about it.
How to remove PFAS from your water – Top Tested Methods
PFAS contamination in drinking water can have serious impacts on human health. Therefore, it is very important for homeowners to identify the source of contamination and find the best way of how to remove PFAS from water. Here are the detailed methods of removing PFAS from water:
Activated Carbon Filtration
Activated carbon filters are used to remove chemicals from drinking water. Activated carbon is very porous and it has the ability to absorb any impurities in water by creating a strong bond with them. It’s like the way activated charcoal makes food taste better.
The basic technology behind an activated carbon filter consists of a tank filled with activated carbon into which water is pumped. The advanced technology behind an activated carbon filter uses a secondary filtration stage. This may include additional fine mesh filters, reverse osmosis, or electronic deionization (EDI) to ensure the highest quality of re-purified water.
Activated carbon filters are mainly used when water is contaminated with organic chemicals and for removing chlorine, taste, and odor.
Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Reverse osmosis is one of the most popular methods to remove PFAS from water because it can significantly reduce concentrations of multiple compounds simultaneously if used as part of a treatment process. Through forced pressure and semi-permeable membranes, water is pushed through the system. In general, RO systems remove more than 99% of contaminants and produce up to five to ten gallons of purified drinking water for every gallon of tap water that enters the unit.
Osmosis simply means the diffusion of water molecules across a semi-permeable membrane toward a concentrated solution.
Anion Exchange Treatment
Anion exchange treatment is a process in which an ion that has a negative charge, replaces positively charged ions to remove contamination from water. The technology works by replacing the positive charges with negative ones and improving the quality of drinking water by removing heavy metals, nitrates, chloramines, fluoride, ammonia, and many others.
Anion exchange technology does not require pre-filtering water as many other technologies do. It is a simple and cost-effective way to remove several contaminants from water at once. Also, it has been shown to be the fastest method of removing PFAS from water in scientific studies conducted by leading research institutions around the world.
High-pressure Membranes Process
In the high-pressure membranes process, water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane under very high pressure. This produces highly purified liquid water and leaves the contaminants behind in the system’s waste tank.
The contaminant removal ability of this technology is dependent on two factors: feed rate and contact time. The higher these two factors are, the better the results are.
This technology is the same used by dialysis machines for filtering blood and removing harmful substances from it. In fact, 80% of all water recycling in hospitals uses high-pressure membranes process to purify water before reuse.
What are the potential health effects of PFAS?
Particular concern has been raised regarding PFAS exposure during key periods of development such as pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Confirmed health effects are still being studied; however, researchers have reported associations between PFAS exposure and increased risk for several diseases including:
- Decreased fertility in women (e.g., ovarian dysfunction)
- Hypothyroidism (e.g., elevated TSH and lower free T3)
- Higher cholesterol, triglyceride, and glucose levels
- Attention-deficit disorder
- 7 Potential hypothyroidism (e.g., reduced thyroid hormone production) including newborns in nurseries with PFAS exposure to nursing mothers living nearby.
- Cardiovascular or kidney disease
- High blood pressure in children
- Mental retardation and smaller head circumference in newborns whose mothers were exposed to PFAS during pregnancy
- Two different types of cancer (liver and kidney)
In addition, studies have shown that people with higher levels of PFAS are more likely to die from all causes. It is important to note that the health effects listed above are not always caused directly by PFAS. However, they have been linked to its exposure.
Even though these conditions may be more common in populations exposed to PFAS, it does not mean that everyone who is exposed will develop one of them. In addition, studies reported even higher rates of disease and mortality in populations exposed to PFAS, but these levels were not necessarily linked to the contamination.
Is it possible to remove PFAS from the water?
Yes, it is. There are multiple technologies that exist for the removal of PFASs and other contaminants. However, some processes can be more effective than others depending on the quality and quantity of contamination in the water.
Does boiling water remove PFAS?
No, boiling water will not be able to remove PFAS. Boiling only forces the chemicals farther into the food you are cooking and can intensify the taste.
Does tap water have PFAS?
No, tap water does not have PFAS in it. However, if your home is connected to a municipal supply that comes from water that has been treated or recycled and then returned to the municipal drinking supply system, the chances are high for higher amounts of PFAS contamination.
In the bottom line, drinking water contaminated with PFAS can be treated by using activated carbon filtration, reverse osmosis (RO), anion exchange treatment, or a high-pressure membranes process. Because of the chemical structure of PFAS compounds, it is almost impossible to completely remove them from your water supply unless you go through one of these processes.
The most effective method is anion exchange treatment, which can get rid of several contaminants at once. However, this technology requires a secondary filtration process to ensure the best results. Then again, the high-pressure membranes process can treat water alone but it will not remove all PFAS compounds from your water supply. This means that using RO is necessary when you use this technology.