Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
What are PFAS?
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) is the umbrella term for thousands of synthetic fluorinated chemicals. PFAS have been widely used because they repel water, stains, and oil. Many consumer products contain PFAS such as some non-stick cookware, outdoor clothing, paper packaging for food, fabrics, and carpets. They have been used in manufacturing and are contained in a substance called aqueous film-forming firefighting foam (AFFF) used at military bases and airfields.
PFAS are not naturally occurring. They have been manufactured, used, and disposed of for decades. The characteristics that make PFAS compounds effective for so many uses also prevents them from breaking down in the environment. These substances may remain in air, soil, surface water, and groundwater and they can be transported distances from the source.
Why is NASA Investigating PFAS?
NASA is proactively conducting investigations into past uses and potential exposures of PFAS at all NASA sites guided by federal and state health and environmental agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refers to PFAS as an emerging contaminant, and in 2016, the agency established a nonregulatory lifetime Health Advisory (HA) for two PFAS compounds that have been more widely studied. Several states have established regulatory limits for PFAS exposure, and federal regulatory actions are anticipated. The state of Florida has developed Provisional Groundwater and Soil Cleanup Target Levels utilizing the same calculations that developed the numerical standards in Contaminated Cleanup Target Levels,Chapter 62-777, Florida Administrative Code. As of May 2021, KSC is conducting a center-wide PFAS assessment to determine the presence or absence of PFAS contamination at its fire stations, suspected AFFF use areas, sewage treatment plants and sludge disposal areas, and landfills. A separate investigation is being conducted to fully delineate PFAS impacts at KSC’s former fire training area (Hydrocarbon Burn Facility, SWMU #007).
NASA and Kennedy Space Center are committed to protecting human health and the environment in all its activities and are conducting these investigations to fully understand the extent of PFAS impacts on the center. KSC is developing models of how PFAS may be moving in the environment, identifying potential exposure pathways, gaining an understanding of groundwater/surface water interactions, and taking steps to implement environmental cleanups where needed.
Kennedy Space Center PFAS Documents
Information Sheet - Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Investigations at Kennedy Space Center, October 2021
PFAS Assessment Work Plan, Hydrocarbon Burn Facility, Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) 007, Kennedy Space Center, April 2018
PFAS Confirmatory Sampling Report, Hydrocarbon Burn Facility, Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) 007, Kennedy Space Center, June 2019
Phase I Solid Waste Management Unit Assessment and Confirmatory Sampling Report, Center-Wide Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), Potential Release Location 237, Kennedy Space Center, September 2019
Phase II Solid Waste Management Unit Assessment Work Plan, Center-Wide Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), Potential Release Location (PRL) 237, Kennedy Space Center, March 2020
Predictive Integrated Stratigraphic Modeling (PRISM®) Work Plan, Center-Wide Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), Potential Release Location (PRL) 237, Kennedy Space Center, April 2020
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Assessment Report, Hydrocarbon Burn Facility, SWMU 007, Kennedy Space Center, May 2021
Phase II and III Solid Waste Management Unit Assessment and Confirmatory Sampling Report for Per- and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances, Potential Release Location 237, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, July 2022
For additional information on PFAS:
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Florida Department of Health
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
Interstate Technology Regulatory Council (ITRC)