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Characterizing Fate and Transport of Perfluorinated Chemical

EPA develops methods for characterizing the degradation of fluorotelomer-based polymers (or FTPs) into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and other perfluorinated chemicals. FTPs are by-products of chemicals manufactured to make consumer products moisture-resistant and stain-resistant. EPA studies whether FTPs degrade to form smaller, more hazardous PFC products.

With an estimated impact on society of more than $1 billion a year, FTPs are important products of the chemical manufacturing industry. EPA conducted studies that documented that FTPs degrade in soil to form PFOA and other chemical compounds, adding to the amount of PFCs in the environment. Prior to this research, it was widely held that FTPs did not break down in the environment to form potentially hazardous compounds. EPA scientists have published results that indicate that FTPs do indeed break down over time.

EPA also developed sophisticated laboratory methods to analyze soil, sewage sludge, plants, animal tissue, and water for PFCs and related compounds. These methods have shown that the application of sewage sludge to agricultural land may be a significant source of PFC exposure to humans. More than half of the sludge produced in the U.S. is applied to agricultural land.