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Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)


Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a complex group of several thousands of manufactured chemicals. They are very stable and last a very long time in the environment. They are also called perfluoroalkylated and polyfluoroalkylated substances (per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances); and perfluorinated and polyfluorinated substances.

PFAS are used in stain repellents, non-stick coatings, waterproof materials and flame-resistant materials. They have existed since the 1940s. They are now found in many common consumer goods.

Public exposure to PFAS

PFAS are found everywhere in the environment. The public is exposed to them through various sources. Food is generally the main source of exposure. Drinking water, bottled water and household dust are also sources of PFAS.

A very wide range of consumer products contain them, including:

  • fire-fighting foam
  • non-stick cookware (such as TeflonTM)
  • food packaging (such as, popcorn bags, and fast-food wrappers and containers)
  • water-resistant or stain-resistant products used in fabric (such as outdoor clothing made with Gore-TexTM, furniture and carpets treated with ScotchgardTM)
  • cosmetic products, personal-care products

Health effects of PFAS

Studies indicate that exposure to certain PFAS may be associated with health effects. A few studies suggest that, in the long term, some PFAS may affect the liver, the immune system, the kidneys and the thyroid, for example. However, many concerns linger, and our knowledge about the possible links between PFAS and health is evolving very quickly.

Several health effects associated with PFAS may also be linked to other chemical compounds or other causes. It is therefore difficult to connect specific health problems with exposure to PFAS.

Limiting exposure to PFAS

Government actions have been initiated to limit the use of certain PFAS. For example, the federal government has adopted a regulation banning the manufacture, use, sale and import of certain PFAS and the products containing them.

People can also personally choose to reduce their exposure to PFAS by doing their best to avoid the products containing them. For further information, see the section Limiter son exposition aux PFAS (in French only) This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Government authorities are continuing to keep track of the growing knowledge about these compounds and their presence in the environment and drinking water.

PFAS in drinking water in Québec

In general, public exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances is lower in drinking water than in food. Everyone can continue to consume drinking water as they normally do. For some specific situations, responsible authorities may issue recommendations and guidance to protect public health. The Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs is continuing to monitor perfluorinated substances in drinking water.

Currently, there are no PFAS standards for drinking water in Québec, and analysis of PFAS in the water supplied by drinking water systems is not mandatory.

General notice

Public consultation for an objective for PFAS

On February 11, 2023, Health Canada launched a public consultation for an objective for PFAS in drinking water supplies. The interim drinking water objective proposed is 30 nanograms per litre (ng/L) for a sum of PFAS. The final value of this objective will be known within the next few months. This objective has no regulatory scope and is designed to reduce exposure to PFAS through drinking water.

However, the amount of PFAS in drinking water has been measured in certain research studies. The available data provide a good overview of the situation across the province. In general, they show that the amount of PFAS in Québec’s drinking water is less than the new interim objective.

Useful links

Last update: March 1, 2023


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