PFAS is not a single chemical but rather a broad class of chemicals (more than 4,700) that are widely used in industrial processes and consumer goods. The two most notorious PFAS (PFOA and PFOS sub-groups) are confirmed to cause serious health issues and pose a risk to public health. For this reason, many countries have banned their production, but efforts are still needed to clean up contamination in water supplies and soils.
Increasing product sophistication means waste is becoming more complex (and dangerous)
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just recently issued a regulatory determination for PFOA and PFOS, an important step in establishing minimum allowable concentration levels in public water supplies. Similar measures are in effect across the EU and in other countries worldwide. But besides PFOA and PFOS, thousands of other PFAS are still produced and used across the global economy. The confirmed risks of just a few has put the entire group under closer scrutiny.
Given tighter regulatory environments and heightened public awareness, the market for treating and remediating PFAS pollutants already in water supplies is expected to swell. In March, the Biden administration announced more than a hundred billion USD in funding to build a resilient water infrastructure that includes decontaminating and monitoring PFAS in US soil and water supplies. Moving forward, investments are expected to expand for test-detection analytics, filtering systems, and safe waste disposal technologies in water and waste management utilities and across industries that use and produce PFAS.
Knowledge of the full impact of all PFAS is still unclear. What is clear is that society and the man-made products it consumes are growing ever more sophisticated. Increasing product sophistication means waste is becoming more complex (and dangerous). In future, the power and precision of basic services like supplying safe water and providing effective waste treatment must also increase to protect public health and natural resources.
Steady growth streams should lift investments across the water value chain in the next decade.