Low Levels of Teflon Chemical Found in New Jersey Wells

On Feb. 13, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released the results of a study that evaluated the occurrence of a widely used industrial chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water systems throughout the state.

"The study found very low levels in wells throughout New Jersey -- consistent with levels found in other areas of the country," said DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson. "We are early in the process of assessing PFOA and what it means to human health. However, it is important to involve water companies now, rather than later."

DEP officials tested 23 drinking water systems, and PFOA was detected at very low levels in 78 percent of those tested. The report also includes drinking water system results submitted from outside sources including environmental groups and water companies.

DEP also has taken the first step toward developing a preliminary drinking water guidance value for PFOA. Based on existing animal studies and estimates derived from a lifetime of exposure (70 years), DEP identified a guidance level of .04 parts per billion (ppb).

The new guidance level is the first phase of an ongoing process to establish a drinking water standard for this contaminant. As the science regarding PFOA is developing rapidly, DEP will continue to conduct sampling and evaluate data from all sources as it becomes available. DEP is not recommending a change in consumption patterns based on the new information.

PFOA is used in the manufacturing process of fluoropolymers, including some Teflon® products. Fluoropolymers are used to provide non-stick surfaces on cookware and waterproof, breathable membranes for clothing. PFOA is very persistent in the environment and is found at low levels in the blood of the general U.S. population, according to EPA. Studies indicate that PFOA can cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.

To view DEP's occurrence study and the report establishing a guidance level, go to http://www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/pfoa.htm.

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