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Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), or perfluorooctane sulfonate, is a man-made fluorosurfactant and global pollutant. It was added to Annex B of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in May 2009. PFOS can form from the degradation of precursors in addition to industrial production. The PFOS levels that have been detected in wildlife and is linked to a variety of health parameters. There is growing concern about the hazards of Teflon type chemicals.

in 1949, 3M began producing PFOS-based compounds by electrochemical fluorination resulting in the synthetic precursor perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride. In 1968, organofluorine content was detected in the blood serum of consumers, and in 1976 it was suggested to be PFOA or a related compound such as PFOS. In 1997, 3M detected PFOS in blood from global blood banks. In 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ began investigating perfluorinated compounds after receiving data on the global distribution and toxicity of PFOS, the key ingredient in Scotchgard. For these reasons, and USEPA pressure, the primary American producer of PFOS, 3M, announced, in May 2000, the phaseout of the production of PFOS, PFOA, and PFOS-related products. PFOS and PFOS-related chemicals are currently produced in China.

Advances in analytical chemistry in recent years have allowed the routine detection of low- and sub-ppb levels of PFOS in food, wildlife, and humans.

History of Teflon


General Information from WA DoE


All PFASs are persistent and many are also bioaccumulative. PFASs are very stable manmade chemicals that have been used for decades to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that are resistant to oil, stains, grease, and water. They are used in many applications due to their durability, heat resistance, UV resistance, and anti-corrosive properties.

Currently known PFAS uses include:

  • Carpets in homes, businesses, cars, and planes.
  • Textiles, especially outdoor clothing and equipment.
  • Fire-fighting foam used to put out petroleum fires, such as for aerospace, oil transport, and oil refineries.
  • Paper wrappers for fast food and microwave popcorn.
  • Tubing, seals, wire insulation, and other equipment for cars and planes.
  • Building materials, such as metal roof coatings, paint, adhesives, and sealants.
  • Pesticides
  • Cleaning agents
  • Printing inks
  • Releasing agents
  • Metal plating industry
  • Fuel additives

In 2009 EPA estimated that in the US textiles and apparel account for approximately 50 percent of the volume, with carpet and carpet care products accounting for the next largest share in consumer product uses. Coatings, including those for paper products, are the third largest category of consumer product uses.


PFASs are not manufactured in Washington, but they enter our environment through consumer and industrial products that contain the chemicals, as well as through atmospheric deposition. The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has documented widespread exposure to PFASs in people throughout the US. During 2008, Ecology conducted a study to assess levels of PFASs in freshwater areas of Washington. The study looked at 13 PFASs in a range of environmental media including surface waters, wastewater treatment plant effluent, fish tissues (fillet and liver), and osprey eggs. The study found widespread occurrence of PFASs in Washington and concentrations in all media were generally within or below the range of values recorded at other United States locations. We saw increasing concentrations of PFASs from water to fish to osprey. More recently PFASs have been detected in drinking water across the US, including in Washington. There are federal cleanup sites for PFASs, often associated with fire-fighting practice and disposal of consumer products.

Health effects

PFASs are associated with adverse health effects. Most of the research has been done on PFOS and a related compound PFOA and the toxicity of other PFASs will vary. Studies in animals shows that exposure to PFOS, PFOA and some other PFASs can affect liver function, reproductive hormones, development of offspring, and mortality. As with most chemicals, the toxicity in humans is less well understood. The expert panel set up to investigate effects on people near a factory in WV that produced PFOA found probable links to high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

References - General


Government Agencies 

Peer Reviewed Articles

  • The Madrid Statement on Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) - consensus statement 2015 - EHP communications – see also Green Science Policy Institue
  • Association of Perfluoroalkyl Substances, Bone Mineral Density, and Osteoporosis in the U.S. Population in NHANES 2009–2010.  Naila Khalil, Aimin Chen, Miryoung Lee, Stefan A. Czerwinski, James R. Ebert, Jamie C. DeWitt, and Kurunthachalam Kannan.  Environ Health Perspect 124:81–87; http://dx.doi.


Childrens Health Issues

  • Exposure to Polyfluoroalkyl Chemicals and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in U.S. Children 12–15 Years of Age.  Kate Hoffman, Thomas F. Webster, Marc G. Weisskopf, Janice Weinberg, and Verónica M. Vieira.   Environ Health Perspect 118:1762–1767 (2010). doi:10.1289/ehp.1001898 -


Industry Associates

  • C8 Science Panel
    • "During 2005-2013, the C8 Science Panel carried out exposure and health studies in the Mid-Ohio Valley communities, which had been potentially affected by the releases of PFOA (or C8) emitted since the 1950s from the Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. They then assessed the links between C8 exposure and a number of diseases. The C8 Science Panel has completed its work and no longer exists; this website summarizes the results."
  • FluoroCouncil
    • FluoroCouncil, the Global Industry Council for FluoroTechnology, represents leading companies that manufacture, formulate or process FluoroTechnology products and promotes the sustainability of those products.






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