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WHAT’S GOING ON WITH PFAS? An Update from Green Bay Water
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Green Bay Water is Wisconsin’s third-largest drinking water provider, and we are stewards of public health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water by establishing criteria we must follow, ensuring that either your water is safe—or, if it isn't safe—that consumers are told so before consumption. Green Bay Water meets or exceeds all regulatory standards in the United States and Wisconsin.

In recent years, a chemical group called PFAS has been linked to negative health effects. PFAS is heavily used in manufacturing and still found in a lot of fast-food wrappers (like the ones tested here). Major PFAS producers in the United States agreed in 2006 to phase out their usage, but still produce them overseas, and then import them to be used in products stateside. Let’s zero in on the four individual PFAS family compounds that are specifically mentioned in this latest notice from the EPA: PFOS, PFOA, GenX and PFBS:
  • PFOS –key ingredient in stain repellant, Scotchgard; used in surface coatings for carpet, furniture, and waterproof clothing     
  • PFOA –makes nonstick coatings for cookware; best known of these coatings, PTFE or Teflon™, is made from PFOA and may contain some traces of PFOA. It was also used in production of carpets, upholstery, clothing, floor wax, and sealants
  • GenX – was developed as a replacement for PFOA once PFOA began being associated with negative health effects; however, GenX has now been linked to the same and health effects as PFOA, according to the EPA.
  • PFBS – wetter in industrial processes and in water-resistant or stain-resistant coatings on textiles, carpets, and paper; 3M Company is reportedly its leading producer
On June 15, 2022, the United States EPA made a health advisory (HAL) announcement with new number for PFAS.  HALs are non-enforceable; rather, they provide technical information that guides the officials to develop monitoring plans, determine treatment solutions, and create policies. The EPA has not yet stopped polluters from discharging PFAS, but they plan to set an enforceable limit (MCL—maximum contaminant level) by the end of 2023.
The HAL considers the effect of a lifetime of consumption at the levels listed below. 
PFAS CompoundEPA Lifetime HALGreen Bay Water as of 5/4/22
PFOA.004 parts per trillion3.2 parts per trillion
PFOS.02 parts per trillion1.91 parts per trillion
GenX10 parts per trillionNon-detectable
PFBS2,000 parts per trillion.73 parts per trillion
Green Bay Water is a leader in the drinking water industry, and we have been testing for these levels since 2018 because we saw PFAS as an emerging concern. Here is what we intend to do to continue our stewardship of public health:
  • Conduct monthly PFAS tests
  • Do everything in our power to ensure we always meet safe drinking water standards
  • Follow the rigorous scientific framework of the EPA and DNR for best water quality practices
  • Remain transparent to the public and welcome questions and comments about water quality
  • Collaborate with the Brown County Health Department as our regional health authority 
According to EPA, PFAS contaminates the blood of 99% of Americans and pollutes most of the world and have been called unavoidable as they are “everywhere,” specifically on former military bases and airports where PFAS firefighting foam has been used for years. Considering that, health experts advise: 
  • Do not switch to plastic bottled water (Consumer Reports tested popular brands and found PFAS)
  • Stay away from waterproof /stain-resistant textiles and clothing that contain PFAS
  • Stop using PFAS-containing food-contact materials such as take-out containers
    • TIP: transfer food out of packaging as soon as you get it. Avoid reheating food in takeout containers, because both heat and time increase the likelihood of PFAS transferring from wrappers to food. 
    • Avoid microwave popcorn which relies on PFAS to create the nonstick surface inside the bag
  • Most nonstick cookware is made with PTFE, a type of PFAS, and should be avoided
  • If you use a water filter, make sure to replace it on-time to reduce contamination build up 
  • Additionally, don’t assume your home water filter removes PFAS; do some research on the filter you have.
  • Avoiding water-resistant products and products with PTFE or “fluoro-” in the ingredients can help limit exposure; the Environmental Working Group database identifies which shampoos, dental floss, makeup, and other personal-care products do and do not contain PFAS 
Please reach out to us if you have any questions by contacting Director of Communications Andrea Hay at Andrea.hay@greenbaywi.gov