• Per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that are resistant to grease, water, and stains. 
  • PFAS are used in many consumer products like non-stick cookware, food packaging, and stain/water-resistant textiles, and have been found in drinking water systems.  
  • Because PFAS use is widespread and it takes many years for them to break down in the environment, PFAS are found in the bodies of people and animals all over the world. 
  • Scientists are still learning about the health effects of PFAS exposure.
  • There are simple steps you can take to reduce PFAS exposure such as cutting back on fast food, and avoiding stain-repellent textiles and non-stick cookware. 
  • PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used in many consumer products like non-stick cookware, food packaging, and stain/water-resistant textiles.
  • PFAS chemicals have been found in some drinking water systems across the United States.
  •  Most PFAS do not break down and remain in the environment for a long time.
  •  PFAS can enter the body through eating and drinking.
  • Drinking contaminated municipal water or private well water
  • Eating fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS
  • Eating food that was packaged in material that contains PFAS such as fast food and microwave popcorn
  • Using some consumer products such as non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpeting, and water repellent clothing
  • Personal care products (certain shampoos, dental floss, cosmetics)
  • Accidentally swallowing contaminated soil or dust
  • Cleaning products
  • If you are concerned about PFAS possibly being in your drinking water, contact your water supplier or local health department
  • You can find your local water system test results here on the EPA website.
  • If levels of PFAS in your drinking water are above health guidance levels,use an alternate water source (or a filter certified to remove PFAS) until the water system has been sufficiently treated to remove PFAS
  • Learn more about New York State water systems and PFAS

Scientists are still learning about the health effects of PFAS exposure. Research involving humans thus far suggest that PFAS exposure may be linked to:

  • Higher cholesterol levels
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Lowered immune system response
  • Increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia in the pregnant women
  • Routine testing of children for PFAS is not recommended
  • Although PFAS can be measured in blood, the results do not help doctors to predict future health effects
  • PFAS testing is usually not available at commercial or clinical laboratories
  • Labs that offer PFAS testing usually are not covered by insurance 

You may have a PFAS blood test as part of research studies being done in some communities with PFAS contamination in the water.

  • There is no treatment to remove PFAS from the body. Reducing future exposure is the most important step.
  • Cut back on carry out foods: PFAS coats paper and cardboard food containers
  • Skip microwavable popcorn bags, as they are coated with PFAS
  • Consider replacing nonstick pots, pans and utensils (especially those cracked or chipped) and choose safer alternatives for cooking such as stainless steel and iron
  • Do not use optional stain-repellant treatments on furnishings
  • if your water system has higher levels of PFAS use an alternative water source (or a filter certified to remove PFAS) until the water system has taken steps to reduce PFAS
  • Clean up dust where PFAS and other chemicals may settle using a wet mop or vacuum with a HEPA filter. 
  • Shop smart, read labels.  When possible, choose personal care products and household products without PFAS or other potentially-harmful chemicals. One option is to check the Environmental Working Group (EWG) online databases for personal care products and household products.

Written by: Inna Lishchenko (trainee); Lauren Zajac, MD, MPH; Sarah Evans, PhD

Updated: May 2021