IT’S TIME TO RECONSIDER OCCUPATIONAL AND AIR PFAS EXPOSURE

BY BHARAT CHANDRAMOULI, PH. D.

Throughout the years, we’ve kept you up to date on the ever-expanding PFAS crisis, spanning across the continent from Maine to North Carolina, Michigan, California, Canada, and numerous other regions. While PFAS has caused alarm, community activism and legislation, most of the attention has focused on drinking water and contaminated sites. 

The transition of PFAS from an emerging contaminant to a regulated one is accelerating. With the federal government’s top-level focus and an annual expenditure likely to exceed $1 billion for PFAS assessment, remediation, and related concerns, there are many technical and regulatory variables on PFAS to consider.  

We now add PFAS in air, general occupational exposure, and industrial hygiene as re-emerging issues. But these concerns are not new! Our initial concerns about PFAS arose when factory workers experienced adverse health effects due to exposure, and when long-range atmospheric dispersion transported these chemicals to the Arctic, resulting in polar bears accumulating alarmingly high levels of PFAS in their bodies.  

Everything from the specific PFAS, to how we measure and regulate may be different for IH applications. I recently presented a webinar for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) audience on the current state of PFAS with a specific focus on industrial hygiene and air. This focused on the overall regulatory picture, measuring PFAS and exposure scenarios and studies.  

The webinar offers a brief but detailed look at these main PFAS issues, and I invite you to view it at the link below. As always, you’re welcome to contact me with any questions. 

The disparity in the level of knowledge and efforts regarding PFAS analysis and remediation in water, soil, and other solids compared to PFAS in the air is significant. PFAS in air are volatile/neutral and simply haven’t been measured as frequently. However, as other matrices are becoming standardized, commercial methods for air monitoring are still primarily in development and regulatory agencies are still working on standardization. Both ASTM and EPA are working on methods to more accurately measure these PFAS in air. Draft OTM-50 is the first proposed canister method.

SGS is consistently committed to developing methods and delivering quality analysis. Since 2002, we have pioneered analytical methods for the investigation of PFAS contamination. Responding to the US EPA’s request, our PFAS center of excellence, SGS AXYS, has recently created and verified the industry-standard method, EPA Method 1633. This method encompasses 40 PFAS compounds across various environmental matrices, including water, solids, and tissue. As global leaders in industrial hygiene analysis, our team, led by numerous Certified Industrial Hygienists, possesses expert knowledge in ensuring the safety of workers and others by mitigating harmful air exposure. Our experts have been diligently working internally and contributing to larger working groups to develop air methods that can be standardized. 

The blend of our IH and PFAS expertise is a valuable combination. As interest and activity around PFAS in the air continue to rise, we’ll be here to keep you informed and provide our services. Don’t hesitate to reach out, watch our webinar, and we look forward to working with you.