Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Your Health
Human exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is a public health concern that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are helping our local, territorial, tribal, state, and federal partners address. Over the last decade, interest in PFAS has been growing. ATSDR and our state health partners are investigating exposure to and possible health effects associated with PFAS in more than 30 communities across the United States.
PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. They have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil.
PFAS are man-made, so there are no natural sources in the environment. However, PFAS can be found near areas where they are manufactured or where products containing PFAS are often used. PFAS can travel long distances, move through soil, seep into groundwater, or be carried through air.
The potential for health effects from PFAS in humans is not well understood. PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS and PFNA have generally been studied more extensively than other PFAS. In general, animal studies have found that animals exposed to PFAS at high levels resulted in changes in the function of the liver, thyroid, pancreas and hormone levels.
ATSDR is involved at a number of PFAS-related sites, either directly or through assisting state and federal partners. As of now, most sites are related to drinking water contamination connected with PFAS production facilities or fire training areas where aqueous film-forming firefighting foam (AFFF) was regularly used.
- New! ToxFAQs™ for Perfluoroalkyls
- New! Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls
- Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): Information for Clinicians
- An Overview of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Interim Guidance for Clinicians Responding to Patient Exposure Concerns
- PFAS Fact Sheet [PDF – 62 KB]
- PFAS Family Tree – Community [PDF – 282 KB]
PFAS and your community
Federal agencies have a variety of tools that provide federal, state, tribal, and local governments, as well as health professionals and the public with information about how a PFAS might affect a person’s health. All of them can be used together to create a more complete picture of how to assess potential health risks from PFAS. Learn more:
- PFAS Toxicological Profile Key Messages
- PFAS Frequently Asked Questions (Tox FAQs)
- Understanding MRLs (Minimal Risk Levels)
- Page last reviewed: August 13, 2018
- Page last updated: August 13, 2018
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