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Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

What is Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)?

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a manufactured chemical that is part of a larger group of chemicals called perfluoroalkyls. 

PFOA has been used in stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, nonstick cookware, and other products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.

See also: Brownfield Factories Homes Drinking Water Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease Reproductive Health

Where is Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) found?

  • Consumer products – production of nonstick cookware and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water
  • Water – contaminated with PFOA
  • Food – grown in soil or water contaminated with PFOA

How can I be exposed to Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)?

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) commonly enter(s) the body through:


Ingestion (swallowing)

  • Swallowing water or food that contains PFOA

Skin contact

  • Touching products made with PFOA

What happens when I am exposed to Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)?

PFOA can remain in the body for long periods of time. 

Exposure to PFOA can cause:

  • Increased cholesterol
  • Harmful effects to a developing fetus or breastfeeding infant 
  • Low infant birth weights
  • Effects on the immune system, liver, and thyroid

Who is at risk for exposure to Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)?

  • Consumers
    • Some consumer products, foods, and water contain PFOA.
  • Pregnant women and infants
    • PFOA can harm a developing fetus or breastfeeding infant.

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to PFOA, contact your health care professional. 

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Is your drinking water contaminated?
  • Have your carpets or household fabrics been treated with PFOA?
  • Do you use nonstick cookware?
  • Use consumer products that do not contain PFOA.
  • Routinely test your well water for PFOA.
  • If your well water has high levels of PFOA, contact your local or state health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information on how to reduce your exposure.
  • If your well water contains PFOA above EPA’s drinking water advisory levels, choose bottled water for drinking and cooking or install an activated carbon water filters or reverse osmosis system.
  • Use proper ventilation when buying or installing new carpets.

Keep children away from food, water, and products that may contain PFOA.

National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases

Additional Resources

  • Factsheet: PFOA and PFOS Drinking Water Health Advisories
    Environmental Protection Agency
    A factsheet addressing 2016 lifetime health advisories of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS),  recommended actions for drinking water systems, information on non-drinking water exposure to PFOA and PFOS, and links for additional resources.
  • Emerging Contaminants - Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)
    A factsheet on perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), including information on their physical and chemical properties, environmental impacts and health effects, federal and state standards and guidelines, detection and site characterization methods, treatment technologies, and links to additional information.
  • Teflon and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). What are Teflon and PFOA? Where are they found?
    American Cancer Society
    Information on Teflon and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), including where these chemicals are found, associated health hazards, and links to additional resources from a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.
  • Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Information and links to resources on drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), chemical contaminants that are hazardous to human health.
  • Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Factsheet
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Factsheet that explains how perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposure occurs, its effects on human health, levels found in the US population, and links to additional resources.
  • ToxGuide for Perfluoroalkyls
    Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
    Pocket guide on perfluoroalkyls, including chemical and physical information, sources of exposure, and associated health effects.
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