Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

We are working with the Washington State Department of Health to develop a chemical action plan that identifies sources and recommends actions to reduce the use, release, and exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Washington. To develop these recommendations, we work with an advisory committee composed of representatives from industry and environmental stakeholders.

What are PFAS compounds?

PFAS are a large group of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These manufactured chemicals never disappear from the environment, which is why they’re called “forever chemicals.” Some of them build up in people and the environment.

They are used to make coatings and products resistant to oil and water, or to reduce friction. They are added to carpets, cookware, food packaging, clothing, cosmetics, and other common consumer products. PFAS also have many industrial applications and are used to make certain types of firefighting foams. 

Why are we concerned about PFAS exposure?

PFAS are water soluble and highly mobile. They can easily contaminate groundwater and can be hard to filter out. Since these substances don’t break down naturally, our exposure to PFAS could continue for hundreds or thousands of years.

What are PFAS? They are “forever chemicals” contaminating drinking water, found in the blood of nearly every American.
  • 43 states have PFAS-contaminated drinking water, affecting 19 million people.
  • Firefighting foam is the suspected source of all PFAS contamination in Washington's drinking water.
  • Almost 100% of Americans have some type of PFAS in their blood.

In Washington, even though PFAS compounds aren't manufactured here, they're released into the environment through consumer and industrial products. PFAS contamination has been found in drinking water wells in Airway Heights, North Whidbey Island, Issaquah, and at Joint Base Lewis-McChord above EPA's health advisory level.

What products contain PFAS?

Typical consumer products that can contain PFAS chemicals, such as carpets, non-stick cookware, and waterproof apparel.

The following are examples of consumer and industrial products that can contain PFAS:

  • Stain- and water-resistant textiles (outdoor and upholstered furniture, carpets, and clothing)
  • Nonstick cookware
  • Waterproof apparel (shoes, clothing, upholstery, and mattresses)
  • Cleaning products, paints, and sealers that penetrate into rough surfaces or promote a smooth finish
  • Firefighting foam used to fight fuel-based fires
  • Grease and waterproof coatings on food packaging (such as popcorn bags, fast food wrappers, and takeout containers)
  • Coated paper products
  • Engineered coatings used in semiconductor production
  • Surfaces in food processing equipment (such as tubing in ice cream and soda dispensers)

Frequently asked questions