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Recap of January 25, 2017 H2GO Town Hall Meeting/Expert Panel

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, January 29, 2018 at 8:37 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak, Hydroviv Policy Analyst. 

This past Thursday, January 25th, H2GO and a local news agency hosted an informative meeting to update the public on the GenX crisis that’s unfolding in Brunswick County, North Carolina. The forum consisted of 3 scientists, 2 representatives from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), local utility providers, and a packed audience of concerned citizens. The mission of the meeting was to communicate to residents any recent actions and discoveries in this public health debacle.

Meeting Topic: Growing Concern About Other PFASs

The public forum made it clear that the scientists and Brunswick County residents are becoming more and more concerned with other perfluroalkyl and polyfluroalkyl subscances (PFASs) that are also present in the Cape Fear River. The scientists concluded that they know even less about these contaminants, which is troubling considering how little is known about GenX.

Our Take: While the presence of other PFASs are new to the nationwide press, they are not new to the scientific community. Dr. Knappe's work has been going on for quite some time, and is highly-respected by the environmental science community (including our science team). It's likely that GenX captured more attention than many other chemicals because it has an ominous (but easy to pronounce) nickname. 

Meeting Topic: Comments From State Regulatory Agencies

A representative from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) shared the three requests made by the Governor to the Environmental Protection Agency; expedite water quality data on GenX, expedite the risk assessment so that national and state standards could be set, and review the consent order under the Toxic Substance Control Act

Our Take On This: This feels a bit like grandstanding, becasue there are thousands of unregulated contaminants that are currently “in review” by the EPA, and the Clean Water Act only allows a MAXIMUM of 30 unregulated contaminants to be monitored in drinking water every 5 year period. The timescales for progress in these types of things are measured in decades, not months. For reference, chromium 6, whose toxicity and occurrence in US drinking water systems has been established for decades, is still not regulated. This is despite being the fact that it was made famous by the Erin Brockovich Movie (released in 2000). 

What Is Hydroviv Doing To Help Remediate Perfluorinated Compounds (Including GenX) In Drinking Water?

As a company, we're not really in a position to push for long-term regulatory changes, but we have heavily invested in a rapid R&D program to develop an under sink water filtration system that is optimized for GenX removal. Unlike reverse osmosis filters, our system does not require the user to drill a hole in their drain pipe or countertop, so our water filters can be used by homeowners and renters alike. 

Of course, our Water Nerds are also standing by to answer questions about GenX, PFASs, regulatory policy.... even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our filters. Open a chat line on our homepage with one of our Water Nerds or send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

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GenX and PFAS Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Eric Roy @ Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm -0400
*Updated 1/22/20 to include PFAS map provided by the Environmental Working Group*
 

There has been some major news coverage about "GenX" and other pre GenX perfluoroalkyl/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in North Carolina and throughout the entire country. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just published a list of new PFAS-effected communities, which includes an extensive list of new cities. If you'd like to check out the map, you can find it linked here. Whenever something like this makes it into the news, the facts can quickly become obscured, so the aim of this article is to summarize a few key things to know about GenX and other PFAS in drinking water. If you're curious about water filter that remove PFAS (including GenX) from tap water, check out this Duke/NC State PFAS study. 

What Is GenX?

GenX chemical structure Chemours

GenX is a trade name for a chemical (deduced structure shown above) that went into production around 2010 as an alternative to a perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8) in the synthesis of PTFE (ie Teflon). PFAS is the broad category in which GenX, PFOA, and PFOS fall under. PFAS are essential for the production of common household products including non-stick pans, firefighting foam, and common outdoor fabrics (e.g. Gore-Tex).

Why Do We Care About GenX And Chemicals Like It?

It's pretty simple: 1) These chemicals are known to be toxic (and this link too) 2) They are persistent in the environment, which means that they don't break down, and can contaminate water far from the contamination source.

Is GenX or Other PFAS Regulated By EPA?

No. Which means that there are no regulatory limits, and municipalities are not required to test for it. There are a lot of chemicals that fall into this category.

Why Is This Such A Big Problem In North Carolina?

A company called Chemours (which was originally spun out of Dupont) produces GenX at a plant in Fayetteville, NC. Discharge from this plant contaminates the Cape Fear watershed.

Are There "Safe" Levels of GenX And Other PFAS In Drinking Water?

Remember, while it's uncomfortable to think about chemicals of any kind existing in drinking water at any concentration, we try and remind people that the dose makes the poison. The example that we like to use is that drinking seawater will kill you from the high salt levels, but putting a pinch of salt in your soup broth is completely fine. The same is true for any chemical. The most credible information that exists at this time on toxicity of PFAS comes from a toxicological profile done by US Center For Disease Control (CDC). In this report, CDC establishes a health advisory level of 20 parts per trillion for the cumulative sum of all PFAS in drinking water, using lifetime exposure levels.

How To Filter GenX And Other PFAS From Drinking Water

If you live in an area that has PFAS levels over the CDC's Health Advisory Levels, you have a few options to remove PFAS. Obviously, as a water filter company, we're partial to our under sink water filtration system and refrigerator and ice maker water filter that were shown to effectively remove GenX in the home of a Wilmington, NC customer under real-world conditions (Reports Can Be Viewed HERE and HERE). These tests were part of an ongoing monitoring program, and we did not pay for the testing. We were also part of a Duke University and NC State study that assessed residential water filters and their ability to remove PFAS from tap water. Hydroviv undersink filters removed PFAS better than major brands such as Brita, Pur, Whirlpool, Berkey, and ZeroWater. The results from this study can be found HERE. These reports reports show that the systems effectively filtered GenX and other PFAS under real-world conditions, for the entire 6 month filter lifetime. Other systems that use reverse osmosis have also been shown to be effective, but they are not without downsides. Our advice to consumers is to demand data collected in real-world conditions (real tap water), not testing in otherwise pure water.

Note: Hydroviv is not affiliated in any way with CFPUA or NC State. In the table below, C4, C5, C6, C7, and C8 all indicate different short and long-chain PFAS variations.

GenX Water Filter

GenX water filter for refrigerator

At Hydroviv, we custom-build water filters using a different approach than reverse osmosis, because of the real-world problems encountered by reverse osmosis users. Instead, our scientists custom-formulate our filter cartridges so they are optimized for each customer's water. There's a lot of proprietary stuff behind what we do, but in the name of transparency we wanted to give more information that we'd normally give about what we are doing to formulate filters for highly soluble compounds like GenX.

1.  We formulate our submicron filter blocks with a blend of activated carbons and elevated levels of a highly porous metal oxide sorbants that other fluoroalkyl compounds have been shown to stick to in the scientific literature. 

2.  We tighten up the pore sizes of our filters, which slows down the flow and increases the amount of time that the water is in contact with the filtration media, so we get much better removal efficiency when compared to granular or powdered media.

Our filters can be ordered through our product pages, and our experts will automatically use your shipping address to know if you are part of the impacted region.

What Are Official Positions On The Situation?

Dupont: In summary, they are saying that even though Chemours is a Dupont spinoff company, they have no comment because it's now a separate entity.

Chemours: Deafening silence.

Municipalities in Southeast North Carolina: "We are in full compliance of Federal Regulations."

Hydroviv: No kidding. You can't be out of compliance if it's not a regulated chemical.

Want More Information About GenX and PFAS In Drinking Water?

We recommend that people take advantage of our "Help no matter what" approach to technical support. Our Water Nerds are happy to discuss our products, or point you to our competitors' products that have also been shown to work. Make sure to chat us on our website or send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

*Updated November 18, 2017 to include water filter performance data, on May 15, 2018 to include video, and June 22, 2018 to reflect a new toxicological profile that was generated by CDC.*



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Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs): What You Need To Know

Water Nerds @ Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 4:10 pm -0400

Stephanie Angione, Ph.D.

Updated 1/29/2020 to include new data.  

What Are Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs)?

Fluorinated substances include a diverse range of chemical compounds that all contain at least one fluorine (F) atom. These substances vary in the amount of fluorine atoms they contain, and those that are highly fluorinated, or contain many F atoms per carbon (C) atom are referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances. These highly fluorinated substances are unique in their hydrophobic (water repellent) and lipophobic/oleophobic (fat/oil repellent) properties, as well as their general chemical and thermal stability.

These properties have made PFAS substances common in many types of applications, including creation of non-stick cooking surfaces, stain and water resistant coatings on fabrics, creation of oil/fat resistant food packaging and also in foam materials used to fight and prevent fires. Additionally, the automotive, aerospace, and construction industries have widely used these fluorinated substances for various applications due to their low friction properties.

Common PFASs include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which have been used in the production of Teflon and Scotchgard respectively. The manufacturer 3M phased out the production of PFOS in 2002 and the EPA helped manufacturers of PFOA phase out production completely in 2015.

How Do PFAS Substances Contaminate the Environment?

PFASs are deemed “emerging contaminates” by the EPA; meaning that they are chemicals or materials thought to pose a potential threat to health and the environment, but haven't yet been regulated. PFASs contribute to environmental contamination largely due to the fact that they are highly resistant to degradation processes, and thus persist for many years in water, air and can enter the food chain via bioaccumulation in certain animal species.

The primary sources of human exposure to PFAS include:

  • Consumption of contaminated drinking water
  • Consumption of food that is packaged in materials containing PFASs, which have included fast food containers, microwave popcorn bags. (Most food manufactures have stopped using PFASs in these types of packaging.)
  • Consumption of food that contains PFASs, including fish and shellfish
  • Contact (hand to mouth) with clothing, carpets or other fabrics that have been treated with PFASs. (Skin exposure to PFASs on their own does not cause significant absorption into the body.)

What Are the Health Effects of PFAS?

The discovery of persistent contamination of drinking water sources with PFOA in West Virginia and Ohio prompted a large epidemiological study called the C8 Health Project. The study included nearly 70,000 individuals who had elevated PFOA levels in blood – approximately 500% higher than the representative population. The study found statistical correlation between elevated blood concentrations of PFOA with ulcerative colitis, impaired thyroid function, high blood cholesterol, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and preeclampsia.

How Do Polyfluoroalkyl & Perfluoroalkyl Substances Contaminate Drinking Water?

In 2016 the EPA released a lifetime health advisory for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. This advisory indicates that the individual or combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS in water should be less than 70 parts per trillion (ppt). This EPA guideline is not an enforced limit – it simply provides guidance to local public health officials. However, under EPA guidelines issued in 2012, water systems are required to monitor levels of PFOA and PFOS. The results of this monitoring effort can be found on the National Contaminant Occurrence Database. Together with data collected under the monitoring effort and established assessments of human health effects, the EPA will make a regulatory determination to include PFOA and PFOS in national drinking water regulations.

Communities that have sources of drinking water contaminated with PFASs are typically localized and associated with a specific industrial facility or area used for firefighting. Both PFOA and PFOS have been found in drinking water systems due to this kind of localized contamination. A 2016 study of drinking water in the U.S. found unsafe levels of PFASs at the EPA minimum level of 70 ppt in 194 out of 4,864 water sources in 33 states. More recently, a 2020 study has shown that PFAS contamination is more widespread than originally thought.  Water sources with the highest levels of PFAS contamination were near industrial sites and military bases, and one of the major contributing sources was found to be firefighting foam.

How Can I Remove Polyfluoroalkyl & Perfluoroalkyl Substances From My Drinking Water?

Some public water systems employ methods (like granulated or powdered activated carbon) to reduce PFOA and PFOS at the municipal level, but these systems do not remove shorter-chain PFAS, like GenX. Hydroviv water filters use a blend of highly-porous active media including carbon, specialized ceramics, and ion exchange media to provide broad protection against PFASs (short and long chain) from drinking water (3rd party test reports for Hydroviv products can be Viewed HERE and HERE) . Water filtration systems that use reverse osmosis systems can also be effective, but you'll want to contact the manufacturer and ask for 3rd party test results against PFAS (not just PFOA/PFOS, which are easy to filter).  

Hydroviv makes it our business to help you better understand your water. As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters. Reach out by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!

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Digging Into The Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database

Eric Roy @ Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 6:16 pm -0400

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

This past week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a website where people punch in their zip code, and view contaminants found in their water. As a company that uses water quality data to optimize each customer’s water filter, we applaud EWG for putting in the enormous amount of time & effort to build the database so the public can learn about their water. Unfortunately, we are seeing that these data are being used to generate inflammatory headlines, which can leave consumers confused and unnecessarily panicked.

We will be updating this water quality database blog post as more questions come in. If you have your own question, please reach out to us (hello@hydroviv.com). One of our water nerds will do their best to get back to you very quickly, even if it’s outside of our business hours.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Updated July 31, 2017

Are All Potential Contaminants Listed In The EWG Tap Water Database?

No. The EWG Tap Water Database pulls data from municipal measurements, but municipalities are only required to test for certain things. Simply put, you can’t detect what you don’t look for. One example of this can be seen by punching in Zip Code 28402 (Wilmington, North Carolina) into the EWG Tap Water Database. GenX, a chemical that has been discharged into the Cape Fear River by Chemours since PFOA since 2010, is not listed, even though it’s been in the center of a huge topic of conversation for the past 2 months in the local media.

Why Is The “Health Guideline” Different Than The “Legal Limit?”

The two different thresholds use different criteria. For example, the “Health Guideline” cited by EWG for carcinogens is defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer, while the “Legal Limit” refers to the MCL which is the limit that triggers a violation by EPA. The OEHHA's criteria are established by toxicological techniques, while the EPA limits are negotiated through political channels. We wrote an article that addresses this topic in much more detail for those who are interested.

Why Am I Just Learning About This Now?

The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act requires municipalities to make water quality test data public in Consumer Confidence Reports. These reports are required to talk about the water's source, information about any regulated contaminants found in the water, health effects of any regulated contaminant found above the regulated limit, and a few other things. As discussed before, the data in the EWG report use different criteria than the EPA, and it's hard for people to make sense of what's what.

Are The Data Correct If My Water Comes From A Private Well?

No. The EWG Tap Water Database only has data for municipal tap water. Private wells are completely unregulated, and there's no requirement to conduct testing. If you'd like us to dig into our additional water quality databases to help you understand likely contaminants in your private well, we're happy to do so. We don't offer testing services, but we're happy to help you find an accredited lab in your area, give advice on which tests to run, and help you interpret the results! We offer this service for free.

What About My City's Water Quality?

Hydroviv makes it our business to help you better understand your water. As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters. Reach out by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!

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