PFAS is an acronym for per- and polyflouroalkyl substances used to describe a group of human-made synthetic organics not found in nature. Some PFAS compounds you may have heard of include PFOS, PFOA, GenX, ADONA and F-53B. These have been used internationally since the 1930’s.
PFAS chemicals are extremely soluble in water, difficult to remove, colorless, odorless and tasteless. PFAS is an insidious, persistent pollutant that is harmful to the environment and humanity at very very low levels as measured in parts per trillion (ppt).
PFAS has a half-life of 40 to 90 years, approximately four generations, and it is a “creeping darkness” creating the landscape of a declining healthy environment.
PFAS is an endocrine disruptor (impairing fertility in humans & animals) linked to cancers including kidney, testicular and ovarian, as well as liver damage, thyroid disease, and hormone suppression.
PFAS is extensively used through the community in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) items such as; clothing, takeaway food containers, and non-stick cookware. However, the most recognisable usage is Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFF) for firefighting which has resulted in global contamination of groundwater.
PFAS compounds spread as a plume, through soil and rainwater into aquifers, oceans and even air. The legacy contamination surrounding fire training grounds from AFFF use has led to class action lawsuits against several federal agencies including the Defence Department.
Environmental Agencies around the world are setting lower and stricter regulations on industrial usage and acceptable levels in drinking water. Two PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS) are listed on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international organization calling for global action to reduce the use of and remediate contamination of these toxic substances that pose a risk to human health and the environment.
Conventional treatment by GAC (Granular Activated Carbon) or IX (Ion Exchange Resin) have proven to be unable to remove all of the 6,000+ different compounds that make up PFAS, with low efficacy in the removal and holding capacity. Commonly used methods are subject to fail in the presence of hydrocarbons and other contaminants, which are very often present around fire training grounds or industrial sites. Conventional treatment systems have a very large footprint with a high capital cost of installation and operation. Furthermore, they produce troublesome and costly waste streams that are difficult to treat with costly disposal.