Chemicals from firefighting foam and other sources
- What are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of human-made chemicals that have been widely used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. PFAS have the ability to resist heat, water, and oil and have been used in food packaging, nonstick cookware, certain types of firefighting foam, and to make clothes, carpets, and furniture resistant to water and stains. They may also be used in certain personal care products such as shampoo, dental floss, and makeup. Creating and using these products can allow PFAS to enter our environment. PFAS tend to break down very slowly, so they can build up in humans and animals and end up in our drinking water and food supply. PFAS are associated with a range of negative health impacts which include certain types of cancer, high cholesterol and reduced vaccine effectiveness. Our understanding of PFAS and the risks they may pose is rapidly evolving.
- What is EPA doing about PFAS?
In 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The roadmap set timelines to highlight EPA’s upcoming actions and policies between 2021 and 2024 to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable.
In June 2022, the EPA announced new PFAS health advisories for drinking water. Health advisories are not regulations and they are not enforceable. Health advisories provide guidance to states and water systems for unregulated chemicals.
In March 2023, the EPA proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulations to establish legally enforceable levels public water systems must follow for six PFAS: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals. EPA anticipates finalizing the rule by the end of 2023.
- What is Colorado doing about PFAS?
Over the past several years, Colorado has committed to identifying where PFAS are entering the environment, stopping new releases, and protecting Coloradans. In many ways, Colorado has led the way in its efforts to track and reduce exposure to PFAS. Visit the projects and programs page to learn more.
- What can I do to reduce exposure and protect the environment?
As we use and dispose of products containing PFAS, these chemicals move to our landfills and wastewater treatment facilities where they may then enter our environment. In order to protect the environment and address the sources of these chemicals, we need to phase out the production and use of products containing these chemicals and find safer alternatives.
We are working with Colorado water providers to reduce PFAS levels in drinking water. We encourage people to get the facts and take steps to limit their exposure from other sources and avoid PFAS when purchasing consumer goods and new household products. This will not only protect your health, but also prevent the chemicals from further entering our environment and water systems. We have resources on our website to help. Through recent legislation, Colorado will be banning the sale of certain products containing PFAS starting in 2024.
PFAS Grant Program
This program provides funding opportunities for sampling efforts to test groundwater and surface water, water treatment infrastructure, and emergency assistance for communities and water systems affected by these chemicals.
Through the new Takeback Program, CDPHE will now pay eligible Colorado fire departments to take unspent firefighting foam containing PFAS out of service and safely store it until we know of a safe disposal method and can collect it for transport and safe disposal.
El Paso County Exposure Assessment
The CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) completed an Exposure Assessment of people living near Peterson Air Force Base in El Paso County, Colorado.
Certificate of Registration Program
Anyone using or storing Class B firefighting foam containing PFAS must register through the Certificate of Registration Program.
Discharge permits (CDPS permitting)
We have started to require monitoring and limits for PFAS in discharge permits.
Fight for statewide compensation for harm caused by PFAS
The State of Colorado through the Colorado Department of Law, filed a lawsuit in February of 2022 seeking compensation from PFAS manufacturers for harm to Colorado’s residents, lands, and natural resources, including water supplies.