Frequently Asked Questions about PFAS Contamination of Water

For more information about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) generally, please visit the About PFAS web page.

What is EPA’s new announcement about PFAS in drinking water?

In summer 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued interim and final lifetime health advisories for four PFAS chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) based on new data and analyses. Health advisories provide information that federal, state, and local official can use to address contaminants in drinking water. They are not drinking water regulations.

The updated interim PFOA and PFOS health advisories are much lower than the previous advisories released in 2016. Lower levels of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water will mean that there will be fewer risks to public health. Rhode Island has been working with public water systems and private well owners to limit or prevent exposure to PFAS through drinking water for years.

How do I know if I have PFAS in my drinking water?

If your water is supplied by a public water system, you can call and ask them if they have tested for PFAS. If you have a private well, RIDOH's Private Well Program can provide additional guidance on how to test well water for PFAS.

What steps should I take if PFAS have been detected in my drinking water?

 If you are a private well owner, you should contact RIDOH's Private Well Program for expert guidance before you make any decisions about treatment. 

For many people whose water is supplied by public water systems, the best action is to stay informed. For years, RIDOH has been and continues to work with public water systems to lower exposure to PFAS through drinking water. Additionally, PFAS exposures from Rhode Island drinking water are usually smaller than PFAS exposures from other sources. 

It is important to know the following information:

  • Boiling water for drinking will not reduce PFAS exposures.
  • Bottled water is not required to be tested for PFAS. Some manufacturers may test for it. You can contact the manufacturer to ask about PFAS results in bottled water.

RIDOH also recommends taking the following steps to minimize PFAS exposures from other sources:

  • Avoid grease-resistant food packaging, such as microwavable popcorn bags.
  • Replace non-stick cookware with safer alternatives, such as cast iron or stainless steel.
  • When possible, avoid purchasing products advertised as water-, grease-, and stain-resistant.

How can I get rid of PFAS in my water?

RIDOH is actively working with public water systems to lower PFAS exposure through drinking water. People who remain concerned may consider installing a point-of-use water filtration system that has received appropriate certifications from the National Sanitation Foundation. The National Sanitation Foundation has a list of certified products that are able to lower PFOA and PFOS levels in drinking water.

Is it OK to use the water for making infant formula?

If PFAS are detected, parents of formula-fed infants may consider using a formula that does not require adding water or finding an alternative source of water that has been tested for PFAS. People who are willing and able to breastfeed infants should continue to do so.

It is important to know that while breastmilk can also expose infants and newborns to PFAS, the health benefits of breastfeeding for children are greater than the risks of health effects from possible PFAS exposure. If you have any concerns about breastfeeding, you should talk to your healthcare provider.

Is it OK to use the water for cooking?

It is ok to use drinking water from public water systems for cooking food. PFAS exposures from the water used for cooking are usually smaller than PFAS exposures from other sources, like grease-resistant food packaging.

Is it OK to shower, bathe, or swim?

Routine showering, bathing, and swimming are not a major source of exposure to PFAS. As a precaution, you may consider shorter showers or baths, especially for children who may swallow water while playing in the bath.

Can I do laundry and wash my dishes?

Doing laundry and washing dishes are also not a major source of exposure to PFAS.

Is it safe to use a humidifier?

If you use a humidifier, only use distilled bottled water.

Is PFAS bad for my health?

Please see RIDOH's PFAS Health Effects Factsheet and general PFAS webpage for health-related information.