This article explains perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Let us delve into the key details about PFOS and understand its role and impact. The 3M Company formulated PFOS and holds the patent on its unique chemical structure. Chemists characterize its structure based upon the eight-carbon fluorocarbon chain fully covered with fluorine, coupled with a sulfonic acid group. These so-called “forever chemicals” do not appear in nature and resist biodegradation. The EPA considers PFOS a contaminant of concern due to adverse environmental and human health effects.

The Uses of PFOS

3M found various industrial and household uses for its PFOS chemicals. Specifically, the uses include:

PFOS Causes Environmental Damages

Despite its usefulness, governments and scientists have raised serious concerns about PFOS due to its pervasive nature and environmental effects. It has earned the designation of a global pollutant by Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2009.

Detection and Regulation of PFOS

Scientists discovered PFOS indicators in humans as early as 1968, when they detected PFOS in blood serum. This sparked the concern of scientists and prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate perfluorinated compounds further. As a result, PFOS is now subject to international restrictions outlined in the Stockholm Convention. Additionally, specific U.S. states prohibit the use of PFOS, including California and Maine.

PFOS Impacts Health

In addition to its environmental impact, scientists link PFOS to adverse health effects in humans. Specifically, long-term exposure to PFOS has raised health concerns. Research suggests that PFOS can accumulate in the human body over time, particularly in the liver and blood. Studies have associated PFOS exposure with potential negative effects on the following:

Scientists associate PFOS exposure with cancers, including liver, kidney, testicular, and thyroid cancers. Moreover, there are concerns about its impact on fetal development during pregnancy and link to increased rates of cancer. Research shows pregnant women and young children stay more vulnerable to the potential harmful effects of PFOS. The potential for PFOS to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain adds another layer of concern for human health. Industry widely used PFOS-containing products in various applications, exposing the U.S. population to this chemical over time.


It is crucial for individuals to stay informed about the potential health effects of chemicals like PFOS and take necessary precautions to minimize exposure. Scientific research continues to better understand the full extent of PFOS’s impact on human health and to develop strategies for mitigation and remediation. Additionally, governments and individuals have filed lawsuits against 3M and others seeking money for the damages caused by PFOS. These lawsuits further drive cleanup activity and regulations. Scientific research and litigation will continue for years to come as additional questions arise concerning PFOS.

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