There are at least 5,000 types of PFAS, which are specifically manufactured or are the byproducts of industrial processes. PFAS are found in many consumer products, including fast food packaging, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, carpeting, furniture, fire-fighting foam, Teflon cookware, and stain- and water-resistant materials.
PFAS are widespread in the environment in the U.S. and globally. The staggering scope of the potential contamination is reflected in the EPA’s own data. The Trump administration had refused to provide the data to the nonprofit group PEER — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, under the Freedom of Information Act. PEER sued the EPA while Trump was in office; the Biden administration provided the information, which shows that an estimated 120,000 facilities nationwide “may handle” PFAS.
Of those, roughly 1,600 are in North Carolina, where only a few counties are spared. Facilities include airports and wastewater treatment plants; plastics, electronics and chemical manufacturers; textiles and paper mills. Most — 1,200 — are within three miles of communities where at least a quarter of residents are low-income or persons of color.