PFAS New fact sheets provide guidance on emerging contaminants

GHD contributes to new chemical fact sheets

23 April 2018 

GHD: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of emerging contaminants attracting growing attention. To address the growing concerns around PFAS, the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) developed six fact sheets that summarize the latest science and emerging technologies. These fact sheets are relatively short (less than 20 pages each) and are written to be understood by readers who do not have a technical background. As such, the ITRC anticipates that these fact sheets will be a valuable resource for project manager, regulators, consultants, responsible parties, and stakeholders.

The fact sheets are available on the ITRC website and include the following:

1. Naming Conventions and Physical and Chemical Properties

The naming conventions for the many, varied PFAS are complicated and have changed over time as more information has become available. It is important to have an up-to-date summary of the terminology, names, and acronyms for PFAS. This fact sheet focuses on the names of the PFAS most commonly found in the environment, provides an overview of known physical and chemical properties, and current data gaps for PFAS properties.

2. Regulations, Guidance, and Advisories

Important regulations and advisories for PFAS in the environment have been recently released by USEPA and several states, although these are likely to expand and change as more information becomes available. This fact sheet provides a brief overview of the existing regulatory and guidance values. The fact sheet describes the primary state and U.S. programs used to regulate PFAS, summarizes current values for groundwater, drinking water, surface water/ effluent, and soil, and discusses the basis for differences in various federal and state drinking water criteria for PFOA and PFOS.

3. History and Use

The fact sheet provides a brief history of the discovery and development of PFAS, their subsequent detection in the environment, emerging concerns of potential adverse human health effects, and efforts to reduce their use or develop less toxic replacement formulations. It also describes the sources of PFAS in the environment and the specific contaminants likely associated with those sources.

4. Environmental Fate and Transport

The fate and transport of PFAS are complicated by the number and diversity of substances involved, their frequent occurrence as mixtures, and by the variety of PFAS source materials. This fact sheet describes key processes associated with four of the most common PFAS sources: fire training/fire response sites, industrial sites, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants/biosolids. The processes described are partitioning, transport in air and water, and both

abiotic and biotic transformations. The fact sheet also summarizes PFAS occurrences in air, surface water, groundwater, soil/sediment, and biota (plants, invertebrates, fish, and humans), and identifies the processes that influence the concentrations found in each of these media.

5. Site Characterization Tools, Sampling Techniques, and Laboratory Analytical Methods

PFAS contamination poses several unique site characterization and analytical challenges because very low concentrations of several different substances must be sampled and analyzed, and these substances often occur in complex mixtures that can change over time. This fact sheet describes the characterization tools, sampling techniques, and analytical methods that are special or unique to PFAS, many of which have been developed only recently.

6. Remediation Technologies and Methods

PFAS are very resistant to destructive treatment technologies and can be expensive to remove using existing technologies. Several innovative technologies for PFAS removal and treatment have been recently commercialized, while others are under development. This fact sheet provides an overview of the technologies and methods currently available for both soil and water treatment, and also identifies and describes the general treatment processes under development. Challenges and limitations are discussed for each process. These are likely to expand and change as more information becomes available.

Sarah Gewurtz in GHD’s Waterloo, Ontario, office co-led the working group that developed the Environmental Fate and Transport fact sheet. Heather Lanza, originally from GHD’s Dallas office, but currently residing in Sydney, was the primary author on the topic of biota, particularly with regards to fish. Ryan Thomas from GHD’s Niagara Falls, New York, office was a primary author on the Site Characterization Tools, Sampling Techniques, and Laboratory Analytical Methods fact sheet.

ITRC is a public-private coalition that publishes documents and conducts training to expand knowledge and expedite quality regulatory decision making in the United States and beyond. ITRC is also currently working on a technical regulatory guidance document on PFAS, in which GHD is actively involved.

ITRC website:




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External Links: ITRC website

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