There are a variety of ways that people can be exposed to these chemicals and at different levels of exposure. For example, people can be exposed to low levels of PFAS through food, which can become contaminated through:

  • Contaminated soil and water used to grow the food;
  • Food packaging containing PFAS; and
  • Equipment that used PFAS during food processing. 

People can also be exposed to PFAS chemicals if they are released during normal use, biodegradation, or disposal of consumer products that contain PFAS. People may be exposed to PFAS used in commercially-treated products to make them stain- and water-repellent or nonstick. These goods include carpets, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging materials, and nonstick cookware.

People who work at PFAS production facilities, or facilities that manufacture goods made with PFAS, may be exposed in certain occupational settings or through contaminated air.

Drinking water can be a source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, for example:

  • an industrial facility where PFAS were produced or used to manufacture other products; or
  • an oil refinery, airfield or other location at which PFAS were used for firefighting. 

PFOA, PFOS, and GenX have been found in a number of drinking water systems due to localized contamination. You can view more information about exposures to PFAS through drinking water on our Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS page.

(Information from EPA Basic Information on PFAS webpage)