Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Watch our video to learn how to reduce your exposure to PFAS.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (known as PFAS) are a large group of manufactured “forever chemicals” — they never disappear from the environment. Some of them also build up in people, wildlife, and the environment (known as bioaccumulation).

PFAS can be found in a wide variety of personal, consumer, and industrial products such as:

  • Nonstick cookware.
  • Waterproof clothing.
  • Furniture.
  • AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam), a common type of firefighting foam, largely responsible for PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

While some manufacturers have moved away from PFAS, the alternatives are not always safer.

We work with the Department of Health, industry and environmental stakeholders, and community organizations to identify and take actions to phase out the use, release, and exposure to PFAS in Washington. To guide this work, we collaborate with the Department of Health to:

How does PFAS get into the environment?

PFAS are water soluble and highly mobile. They can easily contaminate groundwater and 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.

  • 43 states have PFAS-contaminated drinking water, affecting more than 19 million people.
  • PFAS in firefighting foam (also known as AFFF) are a key suspected source of PFAS-contaminated drinking water in Washington.
  • Almost 100% of Americans have some type of PFAS in their blood.

What products may contain PFAS?

PFAS are used because they are oil- and water-resistant. These properties make them appealing to manufacturers because of their wide application and uses. Some manufacturers have moved away from PFAS but the alternatives are not always safer.

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

The following are examples of the wide variety of products that may contain PFAS, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Stain- and water-resistant textiles:
    • Outdoor and upholstered furniture.
    • Mattresses.
    • Carpets.
  • Waterproof clothes and gear:
    • Raincoats and jackets.
    • Hiking boots and backpacks.
  • Nonstick cookware
  • Food packaging with grease and waterproof coatings, such as:
    • Popcorn bags.
    • Fast food wrappers.
    • Takeout containers.
  • Cosmetics.
  • Food processing equipment (such as tubing in ice cream and soda dispensers).
  • Paints and sealers that promote a smooth finish.
  • Floor, automobile, and ski waxes and polishes.
  • Firefighting foam (otherwise known as AFFF) used to fight fuel-based fires.

Frequently asked questions

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