PFAS are used in car wash operations for their water-repellent properties. Car washes utilize PFAS-containing products because they repel water, oil and dirt.
PFAS Prized for Repelling Water, Oil, and Dirt
Car washes use PFAS in various forms, such as sprays, waxes, and rinses. They apply these products to vehicles to create a barrier that prevents the build-up of water, oil, and dirt. This makes it easier to wash vehicles, as the water beads up and rolls off, taking the dirt and grime with it.
The water repellent properties of PFAS make them a functional choice for use in car washes. However, PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they resist degradation and persist in the environment for decades. Due to this resistance, PFAS can travel far from the source of contamination, polluting groundwater and nearby waterways.
Contamination of the Water Supply
Thus, the biggest concern with the use of PFAS in general is the potential to enter the water supply. PFAS can wash off of vehicles into the sewer system. From there, PFAS invade surface water bodies that supply drinking water. PFAS can also easily leach into the groundwater contaminating drinking water aquifers. Another threat is that PFAS can survive some municipalities’ wastewater treatment processes. PFAS can then be transported in the drinking water or in discharges from wastewater treatment plants.
Several studies found elevated levels of PFAS in the water near car washes. A Minnesota study found PFAS levels in water downstream of a car wash were up to 100x more than upstream. A New York study found PFAS in groundwater near a car wash 10 times higher than the surrounding area.
Health Concerns of PFAS Exposure
This is important because PFAS exposure can cause numerous significant health problems. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS can increase the risk of cancer, hormonal imbalances, low birth weight and thyroid disease. They are also toxic to animals and can bioaccumulate in their bodies, affecting animal health and entering the food chain.
Despite the dangers of PFAS, they continue to be used in car washes because of their effectiveness at repelling water. However, there are alternatives available that are safer for human health and the environment. For example, car washes can use products based on vegetable oils or biodegradable surfactants instead of PFAS.
Reducing the Risks
To reduce the risk of PFAS exposure, car washes can implement best management practices. These practices include a properly designed wastewater treatment process to prevent PFAS-containing products from entering the sewer system. They can also educate their customers on the dangers of PFAS or switch to alternative, safer products.
Governments also play a role in reducing the risk of PFAS exposure. They can regulate the use of PFAS, ban PFAS in certain products, and enforce stricter discharge standards for PFAS-contaminated wastewater. In addition, governments can provide funding for research on PFAS and its effects on human health and the environment.
Informed Decisions Prevents Contamination
Consumers also have a role to play in reducing the risk of PFAS exposure. They can choose car washes that use alternative, safer products, and educate themselves on the dangers of PFAS. By making informed choices, consumers can help reduce the use of PFAS in car washes. By working together, we can help protect human health and the environment from the dangerous effects of PFAS.