PFAS in Landfills
By now, you have likely heard about PFAS, the “forever chemical.” What you may not know is that landfills are a major source of environmental PFAS contamination. So, what is this chemical, and how do we approach PFAS abatement in landfills?
PFOA & PFOS Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of man-made, highly fluorine chemicals, that are facing strict regulatory restrictions in the near future. Though there are nearly 4,800 different types of perfluoroalkyl substances, there are two that are commonly focused on because of their use in everyday household products: perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. Both are considered stable chemicals, comprised of 8 carbons. The stability of these carbons and fluorine atoms is what makes them extremely persistent in the environment, and a problem in landfills, because they are very difficult to abate.
PFAS are incredibly common in the production of many consumer goods, from clothing and pots and pans, to food packaging and automotive parts. Because of their prolific use, they can be found in every landfill. These compounds make it into the air and soil in a couple of different ways, making it a challenge to control.
- Many facilities burn their solid waste in order to reduce overfilling at landfill sites.
- Wastewater, or leachate, from landfills can runoff into the soil.
These emissions of PFAS are troubling because PFAS are incredibly persistent, meaning they do not degrade naturally, over time. This is due to the stability of these carbons and fluorine atoms; this also makes PFAS difficult to abate. PFAS from landfills and wastewater facilities gave garnered a lot of attention in recent years, because of their known health risks. Studies have shown these higher levels of accumulation are directly tied to a number of concerning conditions, including liver issues, hypertension, developmental delays, high cholesterol, issues with immune responses, thyroid disease, pregnancy complications, and a number of different cancers. [Read more…]