Public Health

Maryland and PFAS

PFAS – short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – refers to a large group of more than 4,000 human-made chemicals that have been used since the 1940s in a range of products, including stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, paints, cookware, food packaging and fire-fighting foams. These uses of PFAS have led to PFAS entering our environment, where they have been measured by several states in soil, surface water, groundwater and seafood.  Some PFAS can last a long time in the environment and in the human body and can accumulate in the food chain.

​Most people have been exposed to PFAS because of their use in so many common consumer goods. There is some evidence that exposure to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health effects in humans.

The risk posed by exposure to PFAS is an emerging and evolving national concern. Maryland is focused on:

  • Understanding the risk through sampling, science, and assessment
  • Communicating the risk through public information, and outreach
  • Managing the risk through appropriate funding, regulation, partnerships, and agency coordination
MDE is putting a priority on the implementation of a science-based comprehensive plan for PFAS risk that is focused first on determining whether there are locations in Maryland where there are unacceptable risks to human health associated with exposures to PFAS and whether there are locations of continuing releases of PFAS compounds. Maryland held a PFAS Science Roundtable​, sponsored by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in cooperation with MDE, to discuss the state of the science and priorities for further investigations of PFAS occurrence and releases.

As part of its comprehensive plan, MDE conducted a pilot study in 2020 to sample and test surface water and oyster tissue for PFAS in St. Mary’s County. Also that year, MDE started sampling more than 130 public water treatment systems for PFAS and began to sample fish tissue for those chemicals.

The agency will continue to work with the federal Department of Defense (DoD) and oversee investigations of military sites and will request action from DoD where actions are needed to reduce risk at off-facility locations.

MDE is also working to increase its understanding of potential PFAS sources such as effluent from wastewater treatment plants, including those at military installations, biosolids produced by wastewater treatment plants and other facilities and landfill leachate. The agency is also developing a response protocol for spills of firefighting foam that might contain PFAS.

MDE’s goal is to better understand where actions, including regulatory actions, are needed to reduce human health risk and releases of these materials into the environment and to take action to address these risks and releases.​

Information on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Action Plan for PFAS:

Information on PFAS and human health is available at:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ATSDR, NCEH Fact Sheet
U.S. Food and Drug Administration PFAS fact sheet Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)