What is the PFAS Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA) and how to remove/filter TFA from tap water

What is the PFAS Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA) and how to remove/filter TFA from tap water

The presence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in tap water has become a significant environmental and health concern in recent years. Among these, Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA) is particularly noteworthy due to its persistence and potential health implications and continous growth.

What is TFA (Trifluoroacetic Acid)?

TFA is a type of PFAS, a group of human-made chemicals characterized by their resistance to heat, water, and oil. TFA, specifically, is an ultra-short-chain PFAS with a chemical structure that makes it highly stable and mobile in the environment¹.

Where Does TFA Come From?

TFA can originate from various sources, including industrial processes, the degradation of longer-chain PFAS, and as a byproduct of refrigerants and other fluorinated gases². It's also a known degradation product of PFAS-containing pesticides¹.

Where Has TFA Been Found?

TFA has been found in water sources worldwide, including the US, where a sixfold increase in TFA levels over 23 years has been reported. In Germany, TFA concentrations in rainwater have surged fivefold in two decades. The UK has yet to set limits for TFA in drinking water, despite being identified as a substance of concern. Across Europe, TFA has been detected in alarming concentrations, with 79% of samples exceeding the EU Drinking Water Directive limit for total PFAS.

Health Risks of Consuming TFA in Tap Water

The health risks associated with TFA consumption are under scrutiny. TFA has been linked to potential reproductive toxicity and developmental issues. Some studies suggest that TFA exposure may damage fertility and child development². However, assessments by health authorities of human health risks due to environmental exposures to TFA have indicated that the current levels do not pose significant health risks³.

Filtering TFA at the Water Treatment Plant

TFA is one of the most expensive PFAS substances to remove. Water treatment plants can employ several methods to reduce TFA levels, such as:

The challenge with Reverse Osmosis which is the most efficicient method is that it's very expensive at an industrial scale. Therefore recent development in modified activated carbon may be the solution.

Removing TFA from Tap Water at Home

For home filtration, there are specific filters designed to reduce PFAS levels:

  • Activated Carbon / Charcoal Filters (GAC or Carbon Block): These use activated carbon to trap chemicals as water passes through.
  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems: RO forces water through a barrier that separates chemicals from the water.
  • Ion Exchange Resins: These act like magnets, attracting and holding contaminants.

It's essential to choose filters independently tested to remove or reduce PFAS to ensure effectiveness. Note that Activated Carbon is less efficient than the other two methods in reducing TFA.

Conclusion about TFA in tap water

TFA in tap water poses a complex challenge due to its persistence and potential health effects. While water treatment plants and home filtration systems offer solutions to reduce TFA levels, ongoing research and regulation are crucial to address this environmental concern comprehensively.


(1) TFA in Water - pan-europe.info. https://www.pan-europe.info/sites/pan-europe.info/files/public/resources/reports/TFAinWater_Report_27052024.pdf.
(2) Rapidly rising levels of TFA ‘forever chemical’ alarm experts | Water .... https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/may/01/rapidly-rising-levels-of-tfa-forever-chemical-alarm-experts?share=reddit.
(3) Ultrashort PFAS in Swedish and Norwegian Drinking Water. https://cdnmedia.eurofins.com/european-east/media/2867434/eurofins_ultrashort_pfas_drink_water_23.pdf.
(4) Assessment of human health risks due to environmental exposures to TFA .... https://www.fluorocarbons.org/news/assessment-of-human-health-risks-due-to-environmental-exposures-to-tfa/.
(5) FACT SHEET - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2024-04/pfas-npdwr_fact-sheet_treatment_4.8.24.pdf.
(6) Conventional Water Treatment: Coagulation and Filtration. https://www.safewater.org/fact-sheets-1/2017/1/23/conventional-water-treatment.
(7) Reducing PFAS in Your Drinking Water with a Home Filter. https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2024-04/water-filter-fact-sheet.pdf.
(8) TFA: what is it, how much is formed from F-gases, and what are its .... https://www.fluorocarbons.org/news/tfa-what-is-it-how-much-is-formed-from-f-gases-and-what-are-its-environmental-effects/.
(9) IN BRIEF: TFA DRINKING WATER GUIDANCE VALUE IN GERMANY. https://www.fluorocarbons.org/news/in-brief-tfa-drinking-water-guidance-value-in-germany/.
(10) 7 Steps of the Water Purification Process at a Public Water Treatment Plant. https://worldwaterreserve.com/7-steps-of-the-water-purification-process/.
(11) Our Water Treatment Process | City of Tampa. https://www.tampa.gov/water/water-quality/water-treatment-process.
(12) Q&A: EPA finalizes phase-out plan for 'forever chemicals' known as PFAS. https://phys.org/news/2024-04-qa-epa-phase-chemicals-pfas.html.
(13) Removing PFAS from public water systems will cost billions and take .... https://www.wmnf.org/removing-pfas-from-public-water-systems-will-cost-billions-and-take-time-here-are-ways-you-can-filter-out-harmful-forever-chemicals-at-home/.
(14) Tap water study detects PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ across the US. https://www.usgs.gov/news/national-news-release/tap-water-study-detects-pfas-forever-chemicals-across-us.
(15) Routine Determination of Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA) and Difluoroacetic .... https://www.waters.com/nextgen/en/library/application-notes/2022/Routine-Determination-of-Trifluoroacetic-Acid-TFA-and-Difluoroacetic-Acid-DFA-in-Surface-and-Drinking-Water-by-Direct-Injection-Using-UPLC-MS-MS.html.

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