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Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1950s. They are referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ – they are persistent in our bodies, mobile in the environment and many will not naturally degrade. PFAS chemicals are most often commercially used to create grease, water and stain resistant barriers for materials, including Teflon, grease-resistant take out containers, and upholstery and carpet treatments; these chemicals are also found in firefighting foam.
PFAS compounds can be found in:
Certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs including the PFOA Stewardship Program in which eight major chemical manufacturers agreed to eliminate the use of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in their products and as emissions from their facilities. Although PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States, they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics.
PFAS is a chemical found in a wide range of consumer products, and most people have been exposed to PFAS. A preliminary list of scientific articles that have looked at PFAS presence in consumer products is included in FAQ #32.
Concerns have been raised regarding human health and ecological risks associated with certain PFAS chemicals. The Town of Nantucket is following the guidance and testing requirements of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) as it pertains to PFAS.
The best action you can take to decrease PFAS pollution on the Island is to purchase less PFAS-containing products. This can be challenging because products like food packaging materials, non-stick cookware, stain resistant carpet treatments, water resistant clothing, cleaning products, paints, varnishes and sealants, waxes, and cosmetics may have PFAS in them. Other products such as fertilizers and compost may contain PFAS compounds. Purchasing PFAS-free alternatives to these products will help decrease the amount of additional PFAS entering the Island.
Nantucket Memorial Airport has responded to concerns about the presence of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) in drinking water down-gradient from the Airport property associated with the release of firefighting foam during tests mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Working with a licensed environmental consultant, the Airport learned that some, but not all drinking water wells in the affected area show PFAS levels in excess of reportable concentrations set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. More information is available at Airport’s PFAS Information Portal.