Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

You may have seen recent media coverage about the prevalence of PFAS in drinking water systems locally and around the country. Delivering safe water is our mission. We are closely following EPA health advisory guidelines and strive to meet all health advisories as an added protection to our community. 

What are PFAS?
How Does PFAS Enter the Environment?
How are Humans Exposed?
What is Carlisle Borough Doing to Manage PFAS?
How Does PFAS Affect Me?
How Does PFAS Affect Your Water?
How Can We Reduce Exposure to PFAS?
What Can I Do?


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of chemicals used since the 1940s in common household and commercial products. PFAS have unique chemical properties and are often used to keep food from sticking to cookware. They also make clothes, carpets, and furniture resistant to water and stains.

Many recent news articles and movies focus on PFAS, typically when they are found in local drinking water. Water gets this media attention because it is regularly tested for potentially harmful chemicals by law, unlike many of the other things we eat, drink, and breathe.

PFAS are slow to break down in the environment and can move far from their original use areas. The manufacturing and use of these products puts PFAS into the environment, where, over time, they may end up in drinking water supplies. Understanding how PFAS can enter our environment, our homes, and our bodies can help us manage our exposure.

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  • PFAS can enter the environment as we throw away products that have PFAS, and through our own bodily waste.
  • PFAS can also enter the environment when companies make products with PFAS, releasing it directly into our water and air.
  • Natural breakdown of PFAS is negligible or sometimes non-existent, allowing PFAS to build up and remain in the environment. This leads to increasing levels of PFAS in the natural resources we use from the environment, like water, food, and soil.

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Because they are used in so many everyday products, most people in the United States and other industrialized countries now have PFAS in their blood. Exposure toPFAS-images-wastestreams PFAS depends on many things, including the amount of PFAS in your local environment, the amount of PFAS in various food, water, or other products, and how much a person eats, drinks, or uses those products.

  • We swallow, inhale, or rub PFAS into our skin by using certain products, eating or drinking impacted food and water, and breathing in the dust in our homes.
  • As in the environment, PFAS can build up in the human body over time. They have been associated with some negative health effects.
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Borough Council approved as part of the FY 2023 budget funding for an engineering evaluation of our treatment facilities order to determine actions needed to comply with pending PFAS regulations.   Borough Council approved at its December 8th meeting a contract with Gannett Fleming for planning, evaluation, and preliminary design services for process improvements for PFAS treatment at the Carlisle Water Treatment Plant.  Now that the level of proposed EPA regulations are known, we can complete the engineering evaluation of PFAS treatment options for the Carlisle system that will establish a basis of design and estimated costs for reducing the levels of PFOS and PFOA to non-detectable in the Borough’s treated water pursuant to EPA’s standards. 

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PFAS-cycles-infographicHOW DOES PFAS AFFECT ME?
Scientists are still studying the health effects of elevated PFAS blood levels, which may include certain types of cancer, high cholesterol, or decreased vaccine response in children. Blood tests can tell us how much PFAS we may have in our blood compared to population averages. But blood testing is not prognostic (suggestive of a future health effect) or diagnostic (linked to a current health effect). As scientists complete more studies, more information will be available on the health effects of high PFAS blood levels, and regulations related to PFAS will continue to change.

Look to official sources of information to stay up to date on the latest news. Reliable sources include:

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Your health and the health of your household are our first priority. That’s why we look for potentially concerning contaminants like PFAS long before they are regulated. Water quality is regulated to protect public health and drinking water quality is public information. Because of this, water often provides our first clues about trends we need to pay attention to.

Water also connects all of us. Vast as it may seem, our world is a closed system. There is no such thing as “new” water. All water is shared and flows in and out of streams, rivers, oceans, and each of us. Along the way, it often carries what we put in it, including chemicals like PFAS.

Water utilities are responsible for maintaining water quality according to regulations while also keeping drinking water affordable. Treatment to remove PFAS from water can happen at utilities and in our homes – using technologies like activated carbon and reverse osmosis – but treatment can be expensive. Our country’s regulatory process helps make sure we are delivering the safest water at a cost affordable to all. Together with many partners, we take steps to protect our source waters from emerging contaminants, and we test and treat your drinking water to the standards set by the U.S. EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Each year we provide our Annual Drinking Water Quality Report to the public. This report is the best place to find reliable information about relevant regulations and your local drinking water quality.


PFAS can enter the environment as we throw away products that have PFAS, and through our own bodily waste. Natural breakdown of PFAS is negligible or sometimes non-existent, allowing PFAS to build up and remain in the environment. This leads to increasing levels of PFAS in the natural resources we use from the environment, like drinking water, food, and soil.

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PFAS exposure can vary depending on your local environment, but you can take steps to reduce the PFAS around you. Choosing products that do not have PFAS can require some research, but it is an effective way to reduce your exposure. It can also mean giving up some product features such as “non-stick,” or “water- or stain-resistant.” Consider replacing older and worn-out products with these features.

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  • Avoid buying non-stick cookware and stain-resistant furniture and carpeting containing PFAS. Look for 'fluoro' or 'perfluoro' in a list of ingredients or ask the manufacturer. You may also find this summary of PFAS product information and certification resources useful.
  • Limit eating foods packed in materials that use PFAS. Common food packaging that may have PFAS includes microwave popcorn bags, fast food boxes (like french-fry containers and pizza boxes), and bakery bags.
  • Minimize the dust in your home to limit PFAS particles in the air. Change your home’s air filter on a regular basis and leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking in dirt and pollutants.
  • PFAS-images-personalcare-iconAvoid personal care products that contain PFAS. These include certain types of dental floss, nail polish, facial moisturizers, and cosmetics.
  • Learn about the PFAS levels in your local drinking water. If you want an at-home treatment option, look at the NSF International list of products certified to remove PFAS from drinking water in the home.
  • maintains a list of manufacturers and retailers that have taken steps to remove PFAS chemicals from their products.

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