Health Risks Associated with PFAS

Over 95% of adolescents and adults have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood. Long-term, low-level exposure is a concern because studies indicate PFAS can remain in our bodies for 4 to 9 years, making them nearly impossible to eliminate due to our continuous exposure to these chemicals.

The EPA’s current Health Advisory Levels (HAs) for PFAS only account for four of the approximately 9,000 PFAS compounds that exist today. It is important to note, however, that EPA Health Advisories are not enforceable or regulatory. In June 2022, the EPA released new interim HAs for PFOA and PFOS, as well as two additional finalized HAs for GenX and PFBS.

EPA Health Advisory Levels for 4 PFAS
(as of June 15th, 2022)



PFOA Interim Updated Health Advisory

0.004 ppt

PFOS Interim Updated Health Advisory

0.02 ppt

Final Health Advisory for GenX Chemicals

10 ppt

Final Health Advisory for PFBS

2000 ppt


Peer-reviewed laboratory studies in animals combined with human epidemiological studies indicate that exposure to PFAS at certain levels may lead to adverse health effects, including:

  • Developmental Impacts to fetuses during pregnancy and to breastfed infants that may include low birth weight and skeletal variations. Evidence also suggests that children exposed to PFAS can experience developmental effects and delays, as well as lower average weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations and/or behavioral changes.
  • Reproductive Impacts such as decreased fertility and high blood pressure in pregnant women.
  • Cancers including prostate, testicular and kidney, especially from PFOA exposure.
  • Adverse Liver Effects and tissue damage.
  • Reduced Immune System Effects including a reduced ability to fight infections and a decreased response to vaccines.
  • Hormone Disruption including thyroid hormone disruption from PFOS exposure, as well as interference with the body’s other natural hormones.
  • Obesity Risk and High Cholesterol

Scientists continue to improve their understanding of the human and environmental health impacts of exposure to PFAS but the process is challenging. First, there are thousands of PFAS with varying effects and toxicity but most studies focus on a small group of these substances.

In addition, people can be exposed to PFAS in a variety of ways at varying levels over a long period of time. The impact of these chemicals on human biology can also vary depending on the different life stages in which PFAS exposure occurs. Finally, the variety of PFAS and their uses have changed over time making it difficult to track the ways we are exposed to them and to understand their environmental and human health impacts.

This material is based upon work supported under a grant by the Rural Utilities Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Rural Utilities Service.