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The PFAS Crisis: 25 Essential Facts and Statistics in 2024

In recent years, the pervasive presence and harmful effects of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have garnered increasing attention worldwide. As these “forever chemicals” persist in the environment, infiltrating water supplies, ecosystems, and even the bloodstream of humans and wildlife, understanding their prevalence and impact has become paramount.

In this article, we delve deep into the realm of PFAS, unveiling a comprehensive compilation of facts and statistics sourced from reputable institutions and studies. From the historical context of PFAS manufacturing giants to the staggering numbers of legal battles fought over contamination, our exploration sheds light on the multifaceted dimensions of this pressing environmental and public health issue.

Through an array of data points and insights, we aim to provide readers with a nuanced understanding of PFAS, empowering them to navigate the complexities surrounding these ubiquitous yet insidious substances.

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PFAS

  • PFAS are long-lasting chemicals that break down very slowly over time, leading to their widespread presence in the environment and in the blood of people and animals worldwide 2.

  • There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, complicating the study and assessment of their potential health and environmental risks 2.

PFAS Exposure 

  • 97% of Americans have PFAS in their blood according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2.

  • More than 200 million people may be drinking PFAS-tainted water, highlighting the widespread nature of the contamination 4.

  • PFAS has been detected in the blood of penguins and polar bears, highlighting its widespread environmental presence 5.

PFAS Health and Environmental Impact

  • Exposure to PFAS may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals, as indicated by scientific studies 3.

  • A scandal erupted in Parkersburg, W.Va., in 2001 after the discovery of the Teflon chemical in the drinking water of tens of thousands of people near a DuPont plant, leading to studies linking the Teflon chemical to cancer and other diseases 5. The film Dark Waters and the documentary The Devil We Know are based on this story.

PFAS Sources and Contamination

  • PFAS contamination is found in water, air, fish, and soil across the nation and globally 3.

  • A 2022 study found PFAS in raindrops, which originated from contaminated water in oceans, lakes, and streams evaporating into clouds.

  • At least 45% of the nation’s tap water is estimated to contain PFAS, with a study by the U.S. Geological Survey testing for 32 types out of more than 12,000 4.
  • PFAS contaminates water supplies primarily through firefighting foam and industrial releases, with the U.S. military being a significant user of PFAS-containing foam in training exercises at bases nationwide 1.
  • At least 475 industrial facilities may be discharging PFAS into the environment, with no current restrictions under the federal Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act on these discharges 5.
  • The global market value of PFAS waste management was almost 1.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2022 and is expected to reach approximately 2.9 billion U.S. dollars by 2031 due to developing regulations for PFAS disposal 5.

  • In 2022, United States federal agencies invested significantly in PFAS research and development (R&D), with the Department of Veteran Affairs alone investing an estimated 46.45 million U.S. dollars 5.

  • DuPont and 3M, leading PFAS manufacturers in the U.S., are facing about 4,000 lawsuits from states and municipalities for cleanup costs of land and water contamination 5.
  • In 2023, 3M agreed to pay $10.3 billion to at least 300 plaintiff communities to settle some of the legal claims against them 5.

  • There are over 15,000 claims filed nationwide against DuPont, Chemours, Corteva, and 3M, major PFAS manufacturers in the U.S.

PFAS in Consumer Products and Lifestyle

  • PFAS are used in nonstick coatings for consumer products such as water-repellent fabrics, food packaging, and nonstick cooking surfaces, among others 3.

  • People can be exposed to PFAS through various sources, including drinking contaminated water, eating fish from contaminated water bodies, accidentally swallowing contaminated soil or dust, consuming food grown near PFAS-contaminated areas, using consumer products containing PFAS, and swimming in contaminated water bodies 5.

  • Consumer products that may have PFAS include: Cleaning products, nonstick cookware, paints, varnishes, sealants, personal care products like shampoo or floss, cosmetics like nail polish and eye makeup, some grease-resistant paper, fast food containers or wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, candy wrappers, stain-resistant coatings on carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics, and water-resistant clothes 5.

All The Stuff in Your Home That Might Contain PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’

FAQ

Are PFAS in 99% of humans?

According to the CDC, four PFAS (PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA) were found in nearly all of the people tested, indicating widespread exposure to these PFAS in the U.S. population3.

What percent of humans have PFAS?

Almost all humans have PFAS in their blood. 97% exactly.

What is the biggest exposure to PFAS?

The biggest exposure to PFAS can occur in industrial workers who are involved in making or processing PFAS or PFAS-containing materials, or people who live or recreate near PFAS-producing facilities. 

PFAS contaminates water supplies primarily through firefighting foam and industrial releases, with the U.S. military being a significant user of PFAS-containing foam in training exercises at bases nationwide1.

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