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Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Includes Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) 

Along with PFOA, PFOS and others, PFAS are a group of chemicals used to make a wide range of stain-resistant and water proof coatings, and nonstick products.  Manufactured since the 1940s, PFAS could be found in clothing, food packaging, cookware, cleaning products, and firefighting foams.

The concern with certain PFAS chemicals, most notable PFOA and PFOS, is that they generally do not biodegrade and therefore are inclined to build up in the environment, including in fish, animals, and humans.  Since they resist breaking down, they are known as “forever chemicals.”

While consumer products and food are a large source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source in the small percentage of communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, for example, an industrial facility where these chemicals were produced or used to manufacture other products.  According to EPA, evidence exists that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.  Due to these concerns, the USEPA is  developing regulatory limits for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. 

In 2013-2014, Highland Park tested for six PFAS chemicals, including both PFOA and PFOS, as part of the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR).  There was no detection of these contaminants in any of the 4 sampling events during a 12 month period.

Analyte

Result

Unit

Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS)

<90

ppt

Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)

<10

ppt

Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)

<30

ppt

Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)

<20

ppt

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)

<40

ppt

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

<20

ppt

ppt = parts per trillion

Based on the third UCMR data, in May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) released lifetime advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion (ppt), either individually or combined.

Health advisories are not regulations, but provide technical guidance to help state and local officials and managers of water systems protect public health. They identify concentrations of contaminants above which adverse health effects are possible and provide testing methods and treatment techniques.

In October 2020, Highland Park tested for the following 18 chemicals of the Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) group.  There was no detection of the 18 chemicals.  All results were below the laboratory detection limit of 2.0 parts per trillion (ppt).

Analyte
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)
Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS)
Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)
Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)
Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA)
Perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA)
Perfluorododecanoic acid (PFDoA)
Perfluorotridecanoic acid (PFTrDA)
Perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnA)
N-ethyl Perfluorooctanesulfonamidoacetic acid
N-methyl Perfluorooctanesulfonamidoacetic acid
HFPO-DA/GenX
ADONA
9Cl-PF3ONS/F-53B Major
11Cl-PF3OUdS/F-53B Minor
Perfluorotetradecanoic acid (PFTeDA)

These results were confirmed with a sample that was collected in November 2020 by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as part of their Statewide PFAS investigation

The purpose of this investigation is to support the potential development and promulgation of maximum contaminant level (MCL) standards in Illinois for PFAS.

On January 28, 2021, Illinois EPA issued four statewide Health Advisories for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) as a result of the ongoing sampling investigation of PFAS chemicals in Illinois community water supplies.

On April 16, 2021, Illinois EPA issued a statewide Health Advisory for a fifth PFAS. In addition, Illinois EPA updated its statewide Health Advisory for perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS).

In accordance with Illinois groundwater regulations, Illinois EPA added an additional statewide Health Advisory for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) on July 27, 2021.

At this time, no enforceable federal or state drinking water standard, called a Maximum Contaminant Level or MCL, exists for any of the more than 5,000 known PFAS chemicals. Illinois EPA is in the process of collecting data in the PFAS Investigation Network to develop a state MCL.

The table below shows the PFAS chemicals for which Illinois EPA has established Health Advisories and the results of the City’s most recent water testing.

    ​Health-Based Guidance Level Highland Park Results (ppt)
PFAS Analyte Acronym (ppt) October 2020 November 2020
​Perfluorononanoic acid ​PFNA ​21 <2.0 <2.0
​​Perflurooctanesulfonic acid ​PFOS ​14 <2.0 <2.0
​Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid ​PFBS ​2,100 <2.0 <2.0
​Perfluorooctanoic acid ​PFOA ​2 <2.0 <2.0
Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid ​PFHxS ​140 <2.0 <2.0
​Perfluorohexanoic acid ​PFHxA ​560,000 <2.0 <2.0


In 2024-2025, Highland Park will test for 29 PFAS chemicals, as part of the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR).

As more information becomes available, this webpage will be updated.  As always, residents with any water quality questions are encouraged to contact our Water Production Department at waterplant@cityhpil.com or 847.433.4355.

Resources:
IEPA PFAS Info
DrinkTap.org PFAS Consumer Info
EPA's PFAS Information
EPA's PFAS Management Plan Website