Protecting public health and ensuring the safety of South Carolina’s air, land, and water are DHEC’s highest priorities. One of the challenges with this priority is addressing chemicals for which the agency has no regulatory authority. These chemicals, referred to as emerging contaminants, are those with which we have a new awareness and understanding of how they behave in the environment and affect public health.
One class of these emerging contaminants is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of more than 4,000 man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1940s for their heat resistance and water-, oil-, and dirt-repellence. Because of their stability, PFAS resist breakdown by natural processes and persist in the environment indefinitely, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” The most common exposure route is from swallowing food or water that contains PFAS.
PFAS have been commonly used in the manufacturing of:
- nonstick cookware
- food packaging (ex: microwave popcorn bags, fast food wrappers, sliced cheese wrappers, pizza boxes)
- stain-resistant carpets and fabrics and water-resistant clothing
- paints, varnishes and sealants
- dental floss
- fire-fighting foams
Exposure to PFAS chemicals via touching, contact with the skin, and inhalation are lesser human health concerns at this time.
DHEC is currently addressing this emerging contaminant class in several ways:
- DHEC provides oversight to Department of Defense (DoD) facilities;
- In January 2020, DHEC conducted sampling of wells serving communities near Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina;
- Although previous testing in South Carolina did not find this contaminant to be prevalent, DHEC developed a strategy for further evaluation of PFAS on drinking water to be implemented in 2020.
DHEC is committed to staying engaged with our partners at the national level, including the EPA and Environmental Council of the States, and sharing information in regards to emerging contaminants. As the science and technology evolves, DHEC will work closely with EPA as it continues to implement its action plan on PFAS. DHEC is also committed to sharing information with the public so they remain informed and involved as knowledge is gained and used to make decisions to protect public health.
On February 20, 2020, EPA notified it is seeking public comment on its proposed regulatory determination for eight contaminants listed on the fourth Contaminant Candidate List. Of the eight contaminants, EPA is proposing to regulate two, PFOS and PFOA. EPA is also asking for information and data on other PFAS substances, as well as seeking comment on potential monitoring requirements and regulatory approaches EPA is considering for PFAS chemicals. These preliminary regulatory determinations do not impose any requirements on public water systems. This action notifies interested parties of the EPA's preliminary regulatory determination and requests comment on this action.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Basic Information about PFAS
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Drinking Water PFOA and PFAS Lifetime Health Advisory
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Technical Fact Sheet – PFOS and PFOA
- U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Frequently Asked Questions
*Page last updated 2/21/2020 at 10:40 AM.