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Perfluorinated Compounds: PFCs/PFAS

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a diverse group of chemicals which are resistant to heat and water. PFCs/PFAS are chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. The use of PFCs include hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, apparel, upholstery, food paper wrappings, fire-fighting foams and metal plating.
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a diverse group of chemicals which may have harmful human health effects. We know the most about PFOA and PFOS, but other PFCs such as PFHpA, PFHxS, PFNA, and PFBS may have similar adverse effects in humans. As new studies become available, our understanding of the negative health effects of these compounds in humans will continue to grow.

Potential health effects of these compounds depend on how much you are exposed to, how long you are exposed, and personal factors including age, lifestyle and how healthy you are.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops health advisories to provide information about substances that can cause harmful human health effects and are known (or anticipated) to occur in drinking water. A health advisory includes the level of the substance that is considered safe. EPA established health advisory levels for both PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) or nanograms per Liter (ng/L).
  • Increase cholesterol levels
  • Cause liver damage or changes in liver function
  • Decrease how well the body responds to vaccines
  • Increase the risk of asthma
  • Increase the risk of thyroid disease
  • Decrease fertility in women
  • Increase the risk of serious conditions like high blood pressure or preeclampsia in pregnant women
  • Decrease infant birth weight; however, the decrease in birth weight is small and may not affect the infant's health
  • Increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer such as kidney cancer and testicular cancer

Health Effects for Children


Infants may be at higher risk of health problems because they drink much more water compared to their body weight than older people. While what we know about the health effects in children is limited, certain PFCs/PFAS may affect growth, learning and behavior of infants and children.

Removing these compounds from water


Certain treatments can remove these compounds from drinking water. Perfluorinated compounds are not removed from water by boiling. Learn more about drinking water treatment for private wells.

Testing these compounds in private well drinking water


At this time, only a small number of laboratories in the US are approved, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to test for PFAS, such as PFOA and PFOS using EPA method 537. Learn more about testing your private well water for PFCS/PFAS.

People served by a community water system (or municipal water supply) should contact their local water authority with questions about PFCs or PFAS in their drinking water.
If you are a physician and there is a concern about PFCs, the first response should focus on minimizing exposures and treating symptoms.

These resources are available to medical professionals:



Information on this section updated October 2018.
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Content updated: Tue, 23 Oct 2018 14:15:42 MDT