Oct 16th, 23

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PFAS: What They Are, How They Are Classified and Why They Are Harmful

Bởi Son Vu

In the 21st century, as human life progresses further in technological and industrial development, understanding substances called PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) and their impacts on human health and the environment becomes extremely crucial. In this article, EQUO will cover all the essential aspects of PFAS, from its basic definition to the risks to health and the environment.

1. What Are PFAS?

PFAS, an abbreviation for "Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances," are a group of chemical compounds that containfluorine and carbon bonds. They consist of a range of compounds with a similar structure, but they might have varying lengths of carbon and fluorine chains. This results in a diversity in the types of PFAS that can exist.

PFAS are commonly used in many industrial applications as water repellents, oil repellents, and in household products. However, their proliferation has raised many concerns related to the impacts of PFAS on human health and the environment.

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2. Common Types of PFAS

There is a range of common PFAS types used across various industries. Below are some of the prevalent PFAS types and some of their applications:

  • PFOA (Perfluoro-octanoic Acid): Commonly used to produce oil and water repellents. It can also be found in products that come into contact with food, such as non-stick pans.
  • PFOS (Perfluoro-octane Sulfonate): Used in many water-resistant products like waterproof membranes, waterproof materials, and fire retardants.
  • PFHxS (Perfluoro-hexane Sulfonate): Typically used for oil-resistant and water-repellent surfaces.

Knowing the various types of PFAS and their health and environmental impacts is vital for ensuring safe usage and health protection.

3. Health Risks from PFAS

Health Risks from PFAS
Source: Internet


PFAS substances have become a significant concern for human health as they can cause various problems. Here are the health risks that PFAS may pose:

  • Digestive System Impact: Some studies have linked PFAS to digestive effects, such as an increased risk of bowel inflammation and other digestive issues.
  • Immune System Impact: PFAS can affect our body's immune system, making it more vulnerable to diseases and infections.
  • Cancer Risk: Many studies have highlighted a higher risk of cancers like liver nodules and kidney cancer in those with prolonged exposure to PFAS.
  • Circulatory System Impact: PFAS can affect the circulatory system, leading to increased risks of cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure.
  • Impact on pregnancy: Research has also determined that PFAS can negatively affect pregnancy, causing issues such as miscarriage and infant mortality.
  • Impact on children's development: Children exposed to PFAS are at risk of affecting the development of their nervous system, leading to health problems and overall developmental issues.

Understanding these health risks and responding to them properly is essential for the health protection of our community. 

4. Major Sources of PFAS Exposure

Major Sources of PFAS Exposure
Source: Internet

PFAS are versatile chemicals with many properties that make them useful in various applications. They can resist water, grease, oil, and heat, which makes them suitable for many products and industries. Some of the sources where we can find PFAS are:

  • Water Sources: They can be found in surface water, groundwater, and drinking water, originating from industrial discharge and products containing PFAS.
  • Consumer Products: Commonly present in fleece clothing, carpets, waterproof shoes, water-resistant bags, and food packaging. When they break down, PFAS can pose exposure risks.
  • Industrial Production: Oil, electronics, and food industries use or produce PFAS, posing exposure risks to the environment and workers.
  • Clouds and Rain: PFAS evaporate into the air and return as rain or clouds, posing exposure risks.
  • Food: PFAS can transfer from the environment into food through crops, animals, or seawater. Thus, foods like fish, livestock meat, and vegetables may contain PFAS compounds if the environment where they are produced or grown is contaminated.
  • Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products: Some drugs and medical products containing PFAS, such as anti-infectives, contribute to users' exposure.

To reduce risks, environmental controls should be implemented, and the use of PFAS-containing products should be limited.

5. The Impact of PFAS on the Environment

The Impact of PFAS on the EnvironmentSource: Internet


PFAS has several detrimental effects on the environment:

  • Water and Soil Pollution: PFAS, originating from industrial discharges and PFAS products, have the potential to contaminate water and soil, impacting natural ecosystems.
  • Effects on Animals and Plants: PFAS affect the growth of plants and harm animals, disrupting the food chain and biodiversity.
  • Impact on Aquatic Ecosystems: PFAS pollute water sources, reducing the resilience of species, and thus diminishing natural food sources.

Controlling PFAS is essential to protect the "resilience" of the environment and human health.

6. Protecting Health

To safeguard health from the risks of PFAS, effective protective measures need to be implemented. Below are some measures and their implementations:

  • Check Exposure Sources: Identify the sources of PFAS exposure in daily life and reduce contact with them.
  • Use Clean Water: Utilize treated and tested drinking water to ensure safety.
  • Practice Personal Hygiene: Properly perform personal hygiene after coming in contact with PFAS, including washing hands and cleaning clothes.
  • Use Safe Products: Choose products that are either PFAS-free or contain minimal PFAS, such as non-PFAS non-stick pans.
  • Consult Experts: If you have concerns about exposure to PFAS, seek advice from health and environmental experts.

7. The Role of Individuals in Reducing the Dangers of PFAS to the Environment and Ecosystem

Individuals play a crucial role in mitigating the risks and impacts of PFAS on the environment, creatures, animals, and the ecosystem. Below are ways we can contribute:

  • Check Drinking Water Sources: Ensure your drinking water source is not contaminated with PFAS and use treated drinking water.
  • Practice Proper Personal Hygiene: After coming in contact with PFAS, practice proper personal hygiene to prevent potential exposure.
  • Support PFAS Treatment Measures: Support measures to treat and eliminate PFAS in the environment, including participating in proper recycling programs.
  • Educate and Advocate: Learn more about PFAS and their impacts, and share this information with the community to create awareness and collective action.
  • Use PFAS-free Products: Choose household and personal use products that do not contain PFAS to reduce exposure sources. Use PFAS-free products from EQUO, such as straws made from natural materials like rice, grass, sugarcane bagasse, coffee grounds, and coconut,... EQUO commits to not using plastics,PFAS or any harmful artificials, helping to reduce environmental impacts, and promote a sustainable and happy lifestyle.

PFAS-free products from EQUO

Focusing on small actions in our daily lives can significantly contribute to protecting our environment and health from the risks of PFAS. Through this article, EQUO hopes to give you a more comprehensive view of this issue, encouraging you to continue your research to contribute to protecting the environment and community health.

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