Study Overview: A Deep Dive into PFAS Testing

Katherine E. Pelch, Taryn McKnight, and Anna Reade recently published a study in Science of the Total Environment. The title was “70 analyte PFAS test method highlights need for expanded testing of PFAS in drinking water”. The focus was on PFAS testing in drinking water. The study was a pilot project led by members of the community. The goal was to explore expanded PFAS testing.

cookware and food packaging contaminated by PFAS

Key Findings: PFAS in Drinking Water

The study found PFAS in drinking water. The team tested 44 samples. They found PFAS in 30 samples. The samples came from 16 states. The team found 26 unique PFAS analytes. Twelve of these PFAS analytes were not covered by US EPA Methods 537.1 or 533. The PFAS with the highest frequency of detection was PFPrA. It was in 24 out of 30 samples. It was also the PFAS at the highest concentration in 15 samples.

Study Design: A Collaborative Approach

The study had two main aims. The first aim was to use a test developed by Eurofins. This test detects 70 PFAS. The team referred to this as the 70 PFAS test. The second aim was to use the Total Oxidizable Precursor (TOP) Assay. The goal was to estimate the overall PFAS burden in drinking water.

The researchers worked with community members. These members were part of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition. They also worked with the Community Water Center in California. The team also had personal contacts from potentially impacted communities. They collected samples of drinking water. They targeted both public water systems and private wells. They collected samples from 44 locations in 16 states. These locations represented 21 public water systems and 23 private wells.

Sampling for 70 PFAS Analytes: A Detailed Process

The team collected drinking water samples. They used 250 mL High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) containers. Community members collected the samples. They followed instructions provided by Eurofins and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE, 2020). AR provided additional live support as needed. Participants took samples directly from taps. They did not use any whole-home or point-of-use filtration.

Results and Analysis: Uncovering PFAS in Drinking Water

The study found PFAS in all 30 samples. These samples were quantified by the 70 PFAS test. Each sample had one or more PFAS present. These PFAS would not be captured if the UCMR5 reporting requirements were followed. The analysis suggests the upcoming UCMR5 will likely underreport PFAS in drinking water. This is due to limited coverage and higher minimum reporting limits.

Conclusion: Expanded PFAS Testing is Needed

The study results provided important information. This information was for community participants. It was about their current PFAS drinking water exposure. The results also suggest gaps that need to be addressed. These gaps are for regulatory and scientific communities. The need for expanded targeted analysis of PFAS is clear.  The development of a sensitive, broad spectrum PFAS test is needed. Further investigation into ultrashort chain PFAS is also needed.

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