DEP DWSG PFAS

Overview of PFAS

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is a national leader in assessing and responding to environmental and public health risks presented by PFAS. NJDEP has adopted drinking water standards for three PFAS: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA). Studies show that PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA accumulate in the human body, and pose serious health threats to consumers. Learn more about these contaminants below.

What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of manmade chemicals that have been used in industrial and commercial applications for over 70 years. PFAS repel water and oil, and are resistant to heat and chemical reactions.

PFAS are used in the production of stain-resistant coatings for upholstery and carpeting, water-resistant breathable clothing, and greaseproof food packaging. They have also been used as a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers used in non-stick cookware and in aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) for firefighting and training.

How does PFAS get in my drinking water?

PFAS can enter drinking water through discharges from industrial facilities where they are made or used, release of aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) during training or firefighting, effluent and land-applied biosolids (sludge) from wastewater treatment plants, and leachate from landfills where industrial waste or consumer products are disposed. Although the use of PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA has decreased substantially, contamination is expected to continue indefinitely because these substances are extremely persistent in the environment and are soluble and mobile in water.

What actions has NJDEP taken?

NJDEP has adopted rule amendments to

  • Establish drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA;
  • Expand testing of private wells subject to sale or lease for PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA under the Private Well Testing Act (PWTA);
  • Establish specific ground water quality standards for PFOA, and PFOS, and PFNA;
  • Add PFOA, and PFOS, and PFNA to New Jersey’s List of Hazardous Substances; and
  • Expand the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit application testing requirements/pollutant listings and requirements for discharges to ground water to include PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA.

What are the MCLs for PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA and what do they mean?

*micrograms per liter, μg/l (or parts per billion, ppb)
ContaminantMCL
PFOA0.014 μg/l*
PFOS0.013 μg/l*
PFNA0.013 μg/l*

An MCL is the highest allowable concentration of a contaminant in water delivered to a user of a public drinking water supply. MCLs apply to public water systems, including public community and public nontransient noncommunity water systems. Public community and public nontransient noncommunity water systems are required to routinely monitor for contaminants for which MCLs have been established and to take any action necessary to bring the water into compliance with an MCL.

What are the health risks of PFOA, and PFOS, and PFNA?

Exposure to low concentrations of these contaminants in drinking water increases concentrations in human blood serum that persist for many years after exposure ends. Exposures from even low levels of PFOA or PFOS in drinking water are greater than typical exposures in the general population from sources such as food and consumer products. Since human health effects are associated with even low-level exposures to PFOA and PFOS, it is important to minimize increases in exposure from drinking water.

There is considerable information on health effects of PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA in humans and animals. In laboratory animals, PFOA and PFOS caused toxicity to the liver and immune system, neurological and behavioral effects, changes in hormone levels, and effects on metabolism. In laboratory animals, effects of PFNA include weight loss, effects on metabolism, and toxicity to the liver, immune system, kidney, and male reproductive system. These three contaminants also caused decreased growth and development of the fetus and newborn animal. PFOA and PFOS caused tumors in animal studies.

From human health studies, the most consistent findings for PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA are increased cholesterol, increased uric acid levels for PFOA and PFOS, as well as increases in some liver enzymes for PFOA and PFNA. PFOA and PFOS are associated with decreased antibody response to vaccinations, and PFOS is also associated with an increased risk of childhood infections. In a large study of communities with drinking water exposure, PFOA was associated with clinically-defined high cholesterol, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-inducted hypertension, and it was associated with kidney cancer in a recent large study of the U.S. general population.

Additional Resources
  • USEPA’s PFAS website
  • NJDEP’s Private Well Testing Act Resources for Certified Laboratories
  • Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC) Fact Sheets and Online Document.
  • NJDEP Regulatory Documents for PFAS MCLs:
  • Drinking Water Quality Institute Recommendations for PFAS:
    • Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (pdf) (PFOS) Recommendation (June 2018)
      • Appendix A (pdf) – Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document for PFOS
      • Appendix B (pdf) – Report on the Development of a Practical Quantitation Level for PFOS in Drinking Water
      • Appendix C (pdf) – Second Addendum to Appendix C: Recommendation on Perfluorinated Compound Treatment Options for Drinking Water
      • Appendix D (pdf) – Responses to Comments on DWQI Health Effects Subcommittee Report: “Public Review Draft - Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document: PFOS
    • Perfluorooctanoic Acid (pdf) (PFOA) Recommendation (March 2017)
      • Appendix A (pdf) – Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document for PFOA
      • Appendix B (pdf) – Report on the Development of a Practical Quantitation Level for PFOA in Drinking Water
      • Appendix C (pdf) – Addendum to Appendix C: Recommendation on Perfluorinated Compound Treatment Options for Drinking Water
      • Appendix D (pdf) – Responses to Comments on DWQI Health Effects Subcommittee Report: “Public Review Draft - Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document: PFOA
    • Perfluorononanoic Acid (pdf)  (PFOS) Recommendation (June 2018)
      • Appendix A (pdf) – Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document: PFNA
      • Appendix B (pdf) – Report on the development of a Practical Quantitation Level for PFNA
      • Appendix C (pdf) – Recommendation on Perfluorinated Compound Treatment Options for Drinking Water