Research Program Area: Health & Exposure
Topic Areas: Indoor Air Quality
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) comprise a class of over 3,000 chemicals that are commonly used in consumer products and industrial applications due to their inert and repellent characteristics. PFAS compounds have been used in manufacturing in California and they are also present in many consumer and industrial products, such as firefighting foams. In addition in the past, PFASs were used in the chrome plating industry as fume suppressants. Overall use has declined since the early 2000s when some common PFAS compounds were phased out; however use continues for other chemicals in this class, and many sites are contaminated by these extremely persistent compounds. Exposure to PFAS can readily occur because these chemicals persist in the environment and can become airborne and settle into dust and soil. Human exposures may occur through inhalation or ingestion of contaminated drinking water or, when present in residential environments, non-dietary ingestion, especially to young children due to hand-to-mouth behaviors. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health effects in humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the United States (US) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have classified certain PFAS as possibly carcinogenic to humans, and California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has listed perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as a Proposition 65 developmental toxicant. Despite the variety of chemicals classified as PFAS, only perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and PFOS have been studied extensively on their toxicity and fate and transport in the environment. The lack of data on PFAS levels in air and soils or dust represents an obstacle to linking PFAS sources to levels in environmental media and human exposure pathways. Several California agencies have recently taken steps to better understand and prevent PFAS exposures from environmental media, including new monitoring and notification water standards set by the California Water Resources Control Board and listing of PFOS and PFOA under Proposition 65 as developmental toxicants. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and other agencies are concerned about emissions of these chemicals but there are no standard air measurement methods to date.
Because of CARB's interest in the future development of standard air measurements of PFAS emissions, a white paper has been commissioned to investigate this issue. The white paper will be beneficial to CARB by identifying the best methods to measure PFAS compounds in ambient and indoor air, soil, and indoor dust, including sample collection, extraction, and laboratory analysis, and will assess whether further method development is needed so CARB can ultimately use them for monitoring near possible sources (such as industries that use PFAS) and indoors. This information will support research to determine the fate and transport of PFAS compounds in key environmental media, Californians' exposures to these materials, and their impact on public health.
For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753
Stay involved, sign up with CARB's Research Email Distribution List