WIESBADEN, Germany -- In July, the Department of Defense announced a task force to address polyfluoroalkyl substances at U.S. installations located overseas and stateside.
The military services, as a result, are beefing up efforts to test for and remediate PFAS, including garrisons Army-wide.
Per‐ and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of man‐made chemicals that include Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
These chemicals are found in everyday products such as food packaging, Teflon and waterproofing chemicals. But in the U.S. Army, they are most commonly found in foams used to fight fires at airfields on military bases.
While most people have been exposed to PFAS -- whether in food packaging or common household products -- evidence suggests that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
People are typically exposed to PFAS through food and water containing the chemicals. And while certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the U.S., many of the chemicals are still used in carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures to mixtures of PFAS.
WHY WE'RE TESTING FOR PFAS
Since the 1970s, the Army has been using Aqueous Film Forming foam (AFFF), a firefighting agent used to suppress fuel fires. AFFF contains both PFOS and PFOA and is commonly used by civilian firefighters as well.
The Army ceased the use of PFOS-containing AFFF in 2016, except for emergencies. In 2019, the Army began replacing AFFF in first responder vehicles with the shorter chain
PFAS AFFF formulations that have been certified to meet military specifications.
There are currently no maximum contaminant levels established by the EPA for PFAS chemicals. Nor has the EPA established regulatory cleanup levels in the environment.
Out of an abundance of caution, however, the Army is taking swift action to address known locations where PFAS may reside. Ensuring safe drinking water remains a top priority, from the DOD to Army installations across Europe.
PFAS AT ARMY GARRISONS IN EUROPE: WHAT WE'RE DOING
Army-owned or operated drinking water systems are being sampled for PFOS and PFOA as part of the Army's ongoing effort to ensure Soldiers, civilians and family members have access to good quality drinking water.
This sampling is being conducted to ensure that PFOS and PFOA are not present at concentrations that exceed the EPA's lifetime health advisory levels, issued in May 2016.
If PFOS and PFOA sampling identifies any drinking water exceeding EPA's lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt), the Army provides an alternative water source until a long-term solution is implemented.
Officials with the Directorate of Public Works are actively testing for PFAS in drinking water systems, as well as in the soil along known locations where AFFF may have been used in life-saving incidents or for training purposes.
If PFAS chemicals are detected in drinking water systems or in the soil near housing areas, we assure you that you'll be notified. Your life, health and safety will not be compromised.