PFAS (Poly- and PerFluoroAlkyl Substances) the more commonly used name of a large group of chemicals used in products such as repellent coatings or fire retardants. These chemicals are not known to break down and have proven very persistent in the environment and to bio-accumulate. Their potential to impact human health has recently prompted Health Canada to set Maximum Acceptable Concentration levels in drinking water.
Numerous health studies have shown that certain PFAS may:
- Interfere with the body’s hormones
- Affect the immune system
- Contribute to birth defects and/or learning disabilities in children
- Increase cholesterol levels
- Increase cancer risk
- Impair male reproductive health by reducing sperm count and mobility
- Are bio-accumulative leading to extreme levels in breast milk
PFAS are extensively used in food packaging were it can be transferred to the foods which may have previously been in contact with PFAS contaminated soil or water. Stain and/or water repellent coatings for materials, non-stick coatings for cookware, and fire retardant foams are also common everyday sources of further exposure. Laundry and dish washing waste water can then introduce these chemicals into the local water supply.
Once PFAS enter our ecosystem they are now also a threat to our other food sources when groundwater is ingested by livestock or used to irrigate food stock. These chemicals have been detected in the Great Lakes and other surface waters leading the EPA in the US to suggest drinking water advisories for these contaminants. The Canadian government is looking at further restrictions on these substances to help protect a pair of endangered species – the southern resident killer whale and the Saint Lawrence Estuary beluga whale.
Scientists have noted a disturbing global decline in sperm counts over the past four decades. In
the US, Australia, Europe and New Zealand these have fallen more than 50%. Although the cause of this trend is largely a mystery, environmental contaminants such as PFAS is a leading candidate according to the founder of Environmental Health Sciences. These chemicals can be passed on in utero via the mother’s blood. A method to remove these chemicals from the blood is now being sought.
Developed in the 1930’s as surfactants, these compounds have been extensively modified for a wide variety of uses. While some of the oldest compounds have been studied and banned, new mystery types are appearing. The chemical industry does not regularly disclose formulations they consider trade secrets making it difficult to determine their risk to Public Health. Environmental chemists have so far identified almost 5,000 PFAS related structures. This class of chemical has shown up in worrying concentrations in rivers, soils and people’s bloodstreams effecting hundreds of millions of people in Europe, the United States, Australia and China.
Heron Instruments share this concern for the environment so has taken steps to eliminate PFAS sources from our product line. We are proud to announce our designated PFAS Free Zone where we manufacture the dipperLog 64, dipperLog Vented & 4-20mA Pressure Transmitter with wetted materials not known to contain PFAS. We also now manufacture Teflon free water level probes which are available as an option on our dipper-T family Water Level Meters.