Health Guidelines for Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in Drinking Water

Back to PFCs Home: Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in Minnesota

What levels of PFCs in water are safe to drink?

MDH is responsible for ensuring safe drinking water for all Minnesotans. One way MDH does this is through regular testing of public water supplies for contaminants. MDH also investigates situations where groundwater contaminants may affect private wells.

Because PFCs are known to be in the environment in Minnesota, the MDH has developed drinking water criteria, known as Health Risk Limits (HRLs), for PFOA and PFOS. HRLs represent levels of chemicals in water that MDH considers safe for people to drink. In addition to HRLs, which are set through a formal rulemaking process, MDH also develops human health-based guidance called Health Based Values (HBVs) to provide advice for contaminants that do not have HRLs. An HRL or HBV is stated in micrograms of a chemical per liter of water (µg/L). There are 1,000,000 micrograms in one gram.

MDH has set  the following chronic HRLs for PFCs in drinking water:

Perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS): 7 ug/L
Perfluorobutyrate (PFBA): 7 ug/L
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS): 0.3 ug/L
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA): 0.3 ug/L

In January, 2009 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set short-term provisional health advisory values for PFOA and PFOS of 0.4 and 0.2 ug/L, respectively. These values were issued in response to EPA Region 4’s request for assistance after finding elevated levels of PFOA and PFOS in sewage sludge in Alabama.

Due to limited toxicological research on the remaining PFCs for which MDH’s Public Health Laboratory currently tests, there isn’t enough scientific information to develop HBVs for them. MDH continues to follow ongoing research activities and may develop HBVs if sufficient toxicological data becomes available. Levels of these other PFCs have been very low in area groundwater samples.

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How can PFCs be removed from water?

Filters containing activated carbon or reverse osmosis units have been shown to be effective at removing PFCs from water supplies where they have been used and tested.

MDH has conducted a study of point of use water treatment devices – for more information see the information sheet entitled, "MDH Evaluation of Point-of-Use Water Treatment Devices for Perfluorochemical Removal Final Report - Summary" (PDF: 205KB/6 pages).

Other types of common water treatment systems, such as water softeners, are not likely to remove PFCs. Boiling the water will not remove the PFCs.

If you are interested in installing a water treatment system of any sort, be sure to work with a reputable supplier and check references.

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Additional Information

Health Risk Limits (for Groundwater) (Explanation)
Perfluorobutyrate (PFBA)
Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and salts
Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and salts
Perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) and salts

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Contact Us

If you have concerns or questions about PFCs, please contact us.


Updated Wednesday, February 05, 2014 at 11:10AM