It is now recognised that some PFAS present potential risks to human health and the environment. The very characteristics that made PFAS attractive in industrial applications—stability and resistance to chemical, thermal, or biological degradation have made them environmentally problematic. PFAS behaviours pose challenges when assessing and addressing them in the world around us.

Traits of PFAS include:

  • High water solubility, low volatility and extremely mobility in water
  • Exceptional stability retards degradation
  • Limited tendency to sorb to soil and sediments
  • Affinity for media interfaces
  • Persistence and toxicity at low concentrations
  • Bio-accumulative and prevalent in the environment, detected in plants, animals and humans

There is limited toxicological understanding on how contaminants of emerging concern affect human health and the environment, making them the subject of ongoing research across the world.

Although toxicological data are generally limited for most PFAS, exposure has links to the following medical conditions:

  • Disrupted fetal and child development
  • Decrease fertility and interference with the body’s natural hormones
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Immune system disorders
  • Increased risk of some cancers

Environmental consultants are required to be responsive and technically up to date regarding PFAS issues, and must be capable of taking a leading role in government, stakeholder and community interactions. AECOM has experience navigating clients through the appropriate technical and regulatory processes to find the best long-term solution for businesses and the community.