PFAS Chemicals

PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances, are human-made chemicals that have been used since the 1940s in products that resist grease, water, and oil. During production and use, PFAS can migrate into the soil, water, and air, remaining in the environment over time as they do not break down easily. Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, PFAS often end up in consumer products, food, and drinking water, and have been found in low-levels within humans and animals.

There are thousands of PFAS and emerging scientific studies suggest that exposure to some may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals. However, research is still ongoing to determine how different levels of exposure to different PFAS can lead to a variety of health effects. Health risks depend on the specific chemical you are exposed to, how much of the chemical you are exposed to, for how long, and during which life stage(s) you are exposed.

  1. PFAS Can Be Found in Many Places

PFAS can be present in our water, soil, air, and food as well as in materials found in our homes or workplaces, including:

  • Drinking water – in public drinking water systems and private drinking water wells.
  • Soil and water at or near waste sites - at landfills, disposal sites, and hazardous waste sites such as those that fall under the federal Superfund and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act programs.
  • Fire extinguishing foam - in aqueous film-forming foams (or AFFFs) used to extinguish flammable liquid-based fires.  Such foams are used in training and emergency response events at airports, shipyards, military bases, firefighting training facilities, chemical plants, and refineries.
  • Manufacturing or chemical production facilities that produce or use PFAS – for example at chrome plating, electronics, and certain textile and paper manufacturers.
  • Food – for example in fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS and dairy products from livestock exposed to PFAS.
  • Food packaging – for example in grease-resistant paper, fast food containers/wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers.
  • Household products and dust – for example in stain and water-repellent used on carpets, upholstery, clothing, and other fabrics; cleaning products; non-stick cookware; paints, varnishes, and sealants.
  • Personal care products – for example in certain shampoo, dental floss, and cosmetics.
  • Biosolids – for example fertilizer from wastewater treatment plants that is used on agricultural lands can affect ground and surface water and animals that graze on the land.
  1. People Can Be Exposed to PFAS in a Variety of Ways
  1. Exposure to PFAS May be Harmful to Human Health

PFAS in Drinking Water

On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new Health Advisory Levels for four individual PFAS chemicals found in water to provide drinking water authorities with technical information. While the advisory is nonregulatory, the City of Dubuque has begun to voluntarily test for the relevance of these four PFAS chemicals in its water supply. Results of the testing will be completed and available soon.

Are there PFAS in Dubuque's drinking water?

Yes; PFAS have been used for over 70 years and have migrated into our environment's air, soil and water. They have been detected in low amounts within Dubuque's drinking water supply at levels deemed safe by regulatory bodies.

Is Dubuque's drinking water safe?

Dubuque's drinking water is as safe as it has always been, it has not changed. What has changed is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) understanding of what levels of PFAS are unsafe for consumption in drinking water. As new data presents itself, and the results of the City's voluntary PFAS testing are received, the City will act in the best interest of its residents and their safety.

Can PFAS be removed from drinking water in the treatment process?

Yes; While not required by any regulatory body there are methods to removed PFAS from drinking water. The City of Dubuque is proactively exploring treatment technologies that lower the level of exposure to PFAS through drinking water.

What can I do to protect myself from exposure to PFAS?

Due to their wide-use, it's nearly impossible to eliminate your exposure to PFAS. Their are steps however that you can take to limit your contact with them. Using City of Dubuque water that is below required PFAS exposure levels for the following activities is recommended:

  • Dinking
  • Watering fruit and vegetable gardens
  • Providing water to pets

As more information becomes available this website will be updated. To learn more about PFAS, visit the Iowa DNR or the EPA.