Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS)

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Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS) have been detected in the City of North Bay, specifically: Trout Lake, Lee's Creek, North Bay Jack Garland Airport, the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) North Bay, and monitoring wells located near CFB North Bay.

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  1. Frequently Asked Questions About Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS)
  2. For More Information
  3. For Media Inquiries

Frequently Asked Questions About Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS)

WHAT ARE PERFLUOROALKYLATED SUBSTANCES (PFAS)?

Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS) are manmade substances . The most common are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). We use many products that contain PFAS. They can be used to keep food from sticking to cookware, to make carpets and sofas resistant to stains, to make clothes and mattresses more waterproof, and to make some food packaging resistant to grease absorption. Due to their common use in everyday products, almost everyone is exposed to low levels of PFAS from the air, soil, indoor dust, food, water, and various consumer products. 

WHAT ARE PFAS ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS?

No consistent association has been found between PFAS levels and adverse  health effects however some but not all studies in humans have shown that certain PFAS may possibly:

  • affect the developing fetus and child, including possible changes in growth, learning, and behavior;
  • decrease fertility and interfere with the body's natural hormones;
  • increase cholesterol;
  • affect the immune system; and,
  • increase cancer risk. 

CAN I GET A BLOOD TEST TO KNOW IF I HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO PFAS?

While a blood test can detect the presence of PFAS, the results of blood tests will not determine if you are likely to have any adverse health effects from exposure to PFOS and PFOA. Due to their common use in everyday products, almost everyone is exposed to low levels of PFOS and PFOA and will have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood.  

WHERE HAVE PFAS BEEN DETECTED IN NORTH BAY?

PFAS have been detected in Trout Lake, Lee's Creek, North Bay Jack Garland Airport, the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) North Bay, and monitoring wells located near CFB North Bay. 

WHERE DID THE PFAS COME FROM?

The PFAS in North Bay are suspected to have come from the CFB North Bay/Airport area. They are thought to be from fire-fighting foam used in the past to fight fires and to train firefighters. Runoff water from CFB North Bay and the Airport enter Trout Lake through Lee's Creek. 

ARE THE FIRE-FIGHTING FOAMS STILL BEING USED BY CFB NORTH BAY AND AT THE AIRPORT?

Based on current information, no fire-fighting training using fire-fighting foams has been carried out at CFB North Bay or the airport since 1998. There are still PFAS containing fire-fighting foams stored on the properties and the Department of National Defense (DND) is working to have these chemicals removed and destroyed. 

WHEN DID THE HEALTH UNIT BECOME AWARE OF THIS INFORMATION?

The Health Unit was notified by the DND in December 2016 of their ongoing PFAS monitoring at CFB North Bay. Since this time, the Health Unit, in collaboration with community partners, have collected and analyzed available information to determine the level of risk, if any, posed to the public. Based on current groundwater results from deep bedrock wells near DND property, PFAS levels have not exceeded Health Canada Drinking Water Screening Values. As a precautionary approach, off-site private water wells are planned to be tested.  Although we do not have all the information at this time, the Health Unit, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), City of North Bay and DND feel it is important for the public to be aware of its ongoing investigation into PFAS. 

WHAT IS THE HEALTH UNIT'S ROLE?

We are working with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), the City of North Bay, and the DND to better understand the extent of the situation while ensuring that the public's health is protected. 

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?      

The Health Unit will communicate with private well owners in the vicinity of CFB North Bay and Lee's Creek to arrange for private well water testing to determine if PFAS are present. 

HOW WILL WE KNOW THE RESULTS?

Private well owners will be advised of their results by the DND/consultant that collects the sample. Private water results will not be shared with the public. A member of the public may obtain results for water samples collected from public places, by contacting DND. 

WHAT IF I WANT TO TEST MY PRIVATE WELL WATER MYSELF FOR PFAS?

PFAS testing requires a stringent and complex sampling procedure. Owners who would like to test their own water should contact a licensed private environmental laboratory to discuss collection, shipment and the related cost of analysis. Failing to follow sampling procedure may influence sample accuracy. The Ontario Public Health Laboratory does not do PFAS testing. 

HOW IS MUNICIPAL WATER AFFECTED?

Based on available data, the levels of PFAS detected in North Bay Municipal Water remainbelow Health Canada's Drinking Water Screening Values.  Screening values are established at a level designed to protect the health of Canadians, including children, based on a lifetime's exposure to the substance. For interpretation of PFAS results, refer to Health Canada's Drinking Water Screening Values for Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS). 

CAN I DRINK WATER FROM LEE'S CREEK?

No, you should not drink the water from Lees Creek, as the levels of PFAS (up to 1.50 µg/L PFOS) are above Health Canada's Drinking Water Screening Values. For interpretation of PFAS results, refer to Health Canada's Drinking Water Screening Values for Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS). 

I HAVE A PRIVATE WATER SYSTEM THAT DRAWS WATER FROM TROUT LAKE. IS MY WATER SAFE TO DRINK?

Based on available data, the levels of PFAS detected in Trout Lake remain below Health Canada's Drinking Water Screening Values. Screening values are established at a level designed to protect the health of Canadians, including children, based on a lifetime's exposure to the substance. For interpretation of PFAS results, refer to Health Canada's Drinking Water Screening Values for Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS). 

WILL PFAS LEVELS INCREASE IN TROUT LAKE IN THE FUTURE?

Increased levels of PFAS in Trout Lake are not expected. 

CAN I SWIM IN TROUT LAKE?

Yes, activities like bathing, showering, washing dishes, brushing teeth and doing laundry do not pose a health risk . PFAS stay in the water so you can't breathe them in and they won't be absorbed through the skin. 

ARE THERE WATER TREATMENT DEVICES THAT CAN REMOVE PFAS?

Some home water filtration systems can reduce the amount of PFAS in drinking water. How much PFAS is removed depends on the level of PFAS, the type of filter, and how well the filter is maintained. A water treatment specialist may be able to discuss how to optimize removal of PFAS. 

IS WATER THE ONLY SOURCE OF PFAS?

No, due to their common use in everyday products, almost everyone is exposed to low levels of PFOS and PFOA from the air, soil, indoor dust, food, water, and various consumer products.  

CAN I EAT FISH FROM LEE'S CREEK AND TROUT LAKE?

As per the 2015-2016 Guide to Eating Ontario Fish, you should not eat fish caught from Lee's Creek. For Trout Lake advisories, please check page 184 of the guide. 

WHAT IF I ATE FISH FROM LEE'S CREEK?

Nearly all Canadians carry low levels of PFAS, including PFOS, in their blood. By consuming fish from Lee's Creek, people increase their exposure to PFOS. In order to reduce exposure, it is recommended that no fish be consumed from Lees Creek at this time.  

WHAT IF MY PET DRINKS WATER FROM LEE'S CREEK?

Pet owners should not let their pets drink water from Lee's Creek. Levels above the screening values for PFAS have been detected in the Creek. 

WHAT TYPES OF PRODUCTS MAY CONTAIN PFAS, OR HAVE CONTAINED PFAS IN THE PAST?

  • non-stick cookware
  • fast food containers
  • textiles and leather products
  • metal plating
  • food packaging
  • firefighting foams
  • floor polishes
  • denture cleanser
  • shampoos
  • photographic processes
  • medical devices
  • hydraulic fluids. 

WHAT ARE THE ACCEPTABLE LEVELS OF PFAS IN DRINKING WATER?

Acceptable levels  for PFAS are guided by Health Canada drinking water screening values. Screening values are established at a level designed to protect the health of Canadians, including children, based on a lifetime's exposure to the substance. Interpretation of PFAS results is complex, and cannot be made simply by comparing lab results to a table of values.

Refer to Health Canada's Drinking Water Screening Values for Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAS). 

HOW DOES THE HEALTH CANADA DETERMINE THE ACCEPTABLE LEVELS OF PFAS?

Health Canada's PFAS screening values are based on available scientific studies, as well as assessments conducted by other jurisdictions. When the screening values are developed, Health Canada includes a margin of safety (or 'buffer zone'). As such, screening values are set at a level designed to protect the health of Canadians, including children, based on a lifetime's exposure to the substance. 

HOW LONG HAVE PFAS  BEEN USED IN CANADA?

PFAS have been used worldwide for more than 50 years. While some PFAS are still being made globally, the main producer of PFOS phased out global production in 2002. PFAS use in Canada has mostly been phased out.

 


For More Information

Contact a Public Health Inspector at 705-474-1400 / 1-800-563-2808 ext. 2260 or at environmental.health@nbpsdhu.ca.

If you would like to make an inquiry in writing, please complete the inquiry form. For a paper copy of this form, please call 705-474-1400 ext. 2260. The completed inquiry form can be submitted to a Public Health Inspector:

  1. by email: environmental.health@nbpsdhu.ca;
  2. by fax: 705-474-9481; or
  3. by mail or in-person (Reception Desk) at 681 Commercial St North Bay.

For Media Inquiries

Lydia Weiskopf-Tran, Communications 705-474-1400, ext.2221 or 1-800-563-2808 communications@nbpsdhu.ca

 

 

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