‘Forever chemicals’: What are PFAS and can we solve this persistent pollution problem?

Scientists recently discovered unsafe levels of toxic forever chemicals in rainwater – even in remote locations like the Tibetan Plateau and Antarctica.

“There is nowhere on Earth where the rain would be safe to drink, according to the measurements that we have taken,” lead author of the study Ian Cousins told AFP.

He added that the chemicals are now “so persistent” that they may never disappear from the planet. We’ve passed what researchers call the “planetary boundary” for levels of forever chemicals.

So what exactly are these ubiquitous chemicals and is there anything we can do about PFAS pollution? We spoke to an expert to find out.

What are PFAS or ‘forever chemicals’?

Per- or poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of thousands of complex man-made chemicals. They are used in a range of products like non-stick frying pans, food packaging, firefighting foams and toiletries.

They became popular in the 1950s when the number of uses, names and applications for this group of chemicals quickly began to grow.

PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they persist in the environment for an incredibly long time.

They have chains of linked carbon and fluorine atoms. Because this carbon to fluorine bond is one of the strongest there is, some types of these chemicals won’t break down for more than 1,000 years.

‘Forever chemicals’: What are PFAS and can we solve this persistent pollution problem?

Some pans are coated in PFAS to make them non-stick.Canva

What are the health risks of forever chemicals?

PFAS that have been studied so far have been connected to a range of health risks including hormone disruption, immune suppression, kidney cancer and fertility issues, according to Rebecca Fuoco, science communication officer at the Green Science Policy Institute.

“Less than one per cent of PFAS have been tested for toxicity, but all PFAS are either extremely persistent in the environment or break down into extremely persistent PFAS,” she says.

Fuoco adds that forever chemicals that were phased out in products like non-stick pans have been replaced with other PFAS that have turned out to be similarly toxic.

Using unreasonably dismissive and obtuse language to communicate the risks isn’t just unhelpful, it’s harmful.

Rebecca Fuoco Science communication officer, Green Science Policy Institute

Communication is key when it comes to the health risks associated with these chemicals. Fuoco recently co-authored an analysis that found government agencies – particularly in the US – often understate the evidence surrounding the toxicity of PFAS.

“Agencies often overemphasise the uncertainty of health harm across the board when in actuality there is robust evidence for outcomes like reduced vaccine responses and liver damage,” she explains.

“Using unreasonably dismissive and obtuse language to communicate the risks isn’t just unhelpful, it’s harmful.”

What can be done about forever chemicals?

Because they are so persistent in the environment, cleaning up PFAS contamination is likely to be expensive and take decades or more – if it is even possible. Replacing them with alternative chemicals that turn out to be similarly toxic isn’t the answer either.

“By avoiding the entire class of PFAS,” Fuoco adds, “we can avoid further rounds of replacing a banned substance with a chemical cousin which is also later found to be harmful.”

We are already doing some things right. Safety guidelines for levels of these chemicals have been tightened significantly in the last 20 years as we’ve discovered their toxicity – many are millions of times lower than they were in the early 2000s.

Despite the fact that they may never disappear from the planet, Cousins also told AFP that PFAS levels in human beings have actually dropped “quite significantly in the last 20 years”. He added that “ambient levels (of PFAS in the environment) have been the same for the past 20 years”.

Cousins believes this is because of the way that guidelines have changed since 2000.

‘Forever chemicals’: What are PFAS and can we solve this persistent pollution problem?

Scientists recently found unsafe levels of PFAS in rainwater samples taken all over the world.pixabay

What is the EU doing about PFAS?

“We’re seeing more businesses and governments move to eliminate the class of PFAS in whole categories of products where they are non-essential,” Fuoco says.

“We need to turn off the tap on PFAS pollution, and to do that we need to stop all unnecessary use of PFAS as soon as possible.”

We need to turn off the tap on PFAS pollution, and to do that we need to stop all unnecessary use of PFAS as soon as possible.

Rebecca Fuoco Science communication officer, Green Science Policy Institute

In the EU, all PFAS are being targeted by the “great detox” – the largest ever ban of toxic chemicals recently announced by the bloc.

The plan, published back in April, aims to use existing laws to outlaw toxic substances linked to cancer, diabetes, infertility and other health problems. If this roadmap is implemented, it would see the use of PFAS restricted because of the time they take to degrade.

All of the substances will be put on a “rolling list” that will be reviewed and regularly updated to be considered for bans or restrictions by the European Chemicals Agency.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Teen killed, 4 wounded in shooting after football scrimmage

Teen killed, 4 wounded in shooting after football scrimmage Authorities say a 14-year-old youth was killed and four other students were wounded in a shooting near a northwest Philadelphia high ... Read more »

Inmate serving life for fatal Vegas bombing escapes prison

Inmate serving life for fatal Vegas bombing escapes prison A 42-year-old convicted bombmaker serving life in prison for a deadly 2007 explosion outside a Las Vegas Strip resort has escaped ... Read more »

Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid

Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid Hurricane has Ian knocked out power across all of Cuba and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it ... Read more »

Actors In Christopher Nolan Movies You May Not Know Passed Away

Jamie Mccarthy/Getty Images It’s hard to believe that Christopher Nolan has been writing, directing and producing films for almost a quarter of a century. The cerebral filmmaker, known for his ... Read more »

Why Carter From NCIS Season 20 Episode 2 Looks So Familiar

CBS In Season 20, Episode 2 (“Daddy Issues”) of “NCIS,” a body is discovered in what is supposed to be a secured government storage facility and the officer who initially ... Read more »

KPRC 2 Investigates: Harris, Waller County fire departments understaffed

Emergency Services District 200 has four stations “unstaffed,” according to director. Read more »

Más de 194.000 rusos huyen para evadir reclutamiento

TALLIN, Estonia —  Vsevolod viajó cuatro días en auto desde Moscú hasta la frontera de Rusia con Georgia. En un punto tuvo que abandonar el automóvil y continuar a pie. El ... Read more »

FAFSA Season Starts Oct. 1: Here's What You Need to Know

FAFSA is also used to determine eligibility for other federal student aid programs, like work-study and loans, as well as state and school aid. Read more »

Calgarians fed up with high and fluctuating fuel costs amid low oil prices

Alberta drivers were fuming mad after discovering fuel prices jumped more than just a few cents at many gas stations Tuesday. “I was quite blown away because I paid $1.43 ... Read more »

Rawi Hage, Suzette Mayr among writers who made Scotiabank Giller Prize short list

Rawi Hage, Suzette Mayr and Kim Fu are among the finalists for this year’s $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Hage, a four-time Giller nominee, is recognized for Stray Dogs, published by ... Read more »

Ex-skipper of HMS Prince Of Wales is sunk by sexual misconduct allegations: Navy Captain is sacked from role on £3.2bn aircraft carrier after MeToo claims

Captain Steve Higham was commander of the £3.2 billion HMS Prince of Wales After leaving the aircraft carrier in May, several allegations against him emergedHe was accused of inappropriate 'mentoring sessions' with female colleagues   Read more »

‘A wicked act of spite to his wife and children’: Ex-Scotland Yard anti-terror cop ‘cancelled his home insurance and then blew himself and his home up by setting off a gas explosion’

Malcolm Baker, 60, died after a fire tore through home in Exmoor National ParkThe former Superintendent is suspected of killing himselfThe father reportedly emptied accounts and cancelled insurance beforehand Read more »

PayPal lifts ban on free speech chief Toby Young's accounts after outcry from MPs

Paypal last night reinstated accounts run by a free speech campaign groupThree accounts run by Toby Young, from Free Speech Union, were frozen Angered MPs, who called on Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg to intervene The finance company found that Free Speech Union had broken its terms of use Read more »

Ofgem issues warning over new energy rebate scam: Texts from fraudsters falsely tell 'vulnerable' customers they need to apply to get their £400 autumn payment

Scammers are trying to exploit the ongoing energy and cost-of-living crisisThe fake texts tell people they need to apply to get their £400 energy rebateBut the energy bill discount, effective from October 1, will be paid automatically Ofgem confirmed that it had seen a rise in the number of reports of such scams  Read more »

Giants’ first-round picks can only get better after dismal showing vs. Cowboys

What? Did you think they were going 17-0? After the feel-good 2-0 start, a lot of you thought the Giants were headed for at least 4-0. You know who you ... Read more »

Japan's businesses brace for long-awaited return of tourists

TOKYO – Japan’s tourism industry is opening for business again. From the streets of Kyoto to the slopes of Hokkaido, retailers, restaurants and hotels are seeking to recover the revenue ... Read more »

Officials: Cuba without electricity after Hurricane Ian collapses power grid

Officials: Cuba without electricity after Hurricane Ian collapses power grid Officials: Cuba without electricity after Hurricane Ian collapses power grid HAVANA — Officials: Cuba without electricity after Hurricane Ian collapses ... Read more »

Whoopi Goldberg Calls Out ‘RHOSLC’ Star Jen Shah After Guilty Plea: “When It Comes To Older People, I Am Not As Forgiving”

ABC/Chris Haston/Bravo Whoopi Goldberg and the co-hosts of The View discussed the drama surrounding The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. After Jen Shah took a plea deal admitting guilt for a ... Read more »

Dish And Game Show Network Reach Deal To End Blackout

GSN Dish Network and the Game Show Network said Tuesday that they have reached a multi-year deal on a new carriage agreement, restoring the channel to the satellite service after ... Read more »

4 innocent bystanders, including 2 teens, shot inside Queens park

Four innocent bystanders, including two teenagers, were shot at a Queens park as they were caught in the crossfire of two feuding gunmen on Tuesday night, police sources said. The ... Read more »

Who Plays Gabbi In Netflix's Do Revenge?

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images Since its release on September 16, 2022, Netflix’s “Do Revenge” has been the talk of the town. The teen comedy follows a pair of high school girls ... Read more »

Next ‘Star Trek’ Unset From Paramount Release Calendar

Everett No surprise here as Paramount has temporarily removed Star Trek from its release schedule. The news comes a month after director Matt Shakman exited the project. A search for ... Read more »

All St. Catharines acid spill patients discharged from hospital

All 23 people sent to a Niagara Region hospital after an acid spill at an auto plant have been discharged. That includes three who were directly exposed to a vapour ... Read more »

Fox News Tops September And Third-Quarter Viewership, All Networks See Drop In Key Demo

Fox News again topped its cable news rivals in total viewers and a key demographic during the month of September and for the third quarter. But it was a rather ... Read more »

Teen girl, fugitive father killed in shootout with police in California

A 15-year-old girl and her fugitive father who abducted her were killed in a highway shootout with police in California Tuesday, officials said. Savannah Graziano was running toward San Bernardino ... Read more »

Pete Alonso sets another Mets mark with 40th home run

Pete Alonso’s record-setting Mets season isn’t over yet. The Mets slugger launched a three-run homer against the Marlins in the fourth inning on Tuesday night at Citi Field for his ... Read more »

Former DEA official warns parents after fentanyl found disguised in candy packaging

Derek Maltz, former DEA special operations director, warned parents to educate themselves on the nationwide fentanyl crisis after officials seized 15,000 pills disguised as candy in Connecticut. With Halloween just ... Read more »

The Unlikely A-Lister Who Almost Played AJ In Barbarian

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images Courtesy of director Zach Cregger and 20th Century Studios, “Barbarian” arrived in cinemas on September 9, 2022. This twist-filled horror film follows Tess Marshall (Georgina Campell), who heads ... Read more »

The Real Reason Rachel Zegler Refused To Rewatch Snow White Until She Was Cast In The Live-Action Version

lev radin/Shutterstock Disney has gone all-in on live-action adaptations of its most beloved properties, meaning that there doesn’t seem to be a single title that’s off the table. “Pinocchio,” “Aladdin,” ... Read more »

Cubs Willson Contreras Gets 2nd Chance at Final Goodbye at Wrigley

Willson Contreras’ second chance at a final goodbye originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago How many ways can a guy say goodbye? Willson Contreras is about to find out. The ... Read more »

Renuncia del fiscal para Ayotzinapa, golpe para el caso

Familiares y compañeros de clases de los 43 estudiantes universitarios de Ayotzinapa desaparecidos marchan en la Ciudad de México el lunes 26 de septiembre de 2022, al cumplirse otro aniversario ... Read more »

Inside the Neilon Nudge: Brett Neilon and the USC Trojans break down his clutch push

It was a pivotal moment in the most pivotal game yet for USC under Lincoln Riley, the sort of triumphant turning point every title team inevitably needs, but at the ... Read more »

Hugh Jackman WILL reprise his role as Wolverine in Deadpool 3: Fans go wild over bombshell announcement in teaser video starring Ryan Reynolds

Hugh Jackman set social media ablaze on Tuesday after confirming he will reprise his role as Wolverine in Deadpool 3. Ryan Reynolds, who plays the foul-mouthed superhero Deadpool in the Marvel film ... Read more »

Hurricane Ian: Disney World Asks Hotel Guests To Shelter In Place For Duration Of Storm

The Contemporary Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World nik wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images Late today Walt Disney World asked all resort hotel guests who remain at the properties to shelter ... Read more »

‘Pedestrians should be our priority’: Toronto man voicing accessibility concerns

A Toronto man is voicing concerns about pedestrian safety and accessibility. Brian Provini, who lives near Yonge and Wellesley streets, says a Bike Share rack located in the Wellesley car ... Read more »

Committee endorses Calgary single-use plastics reduction strategy and bylaw

A Calgary city committee has given an early approval to the city’s plan to address single-use plastics, but some councillors feel the plan doesn’t go far enough and others felt ... Read more »

More GP funding needed for nation's health

Doctor's fees will rise and general practices will close across the country unless government boosts investment in the sector, Australia's peak body for GPs says. The Royal Australian College of ... Read more »

The Cringe-Inducing Moment That Got Adrien Brody Banned From SNL

lev radin/Shutterstock Since starting “Saturday Night Live” in 1975, legendary producer Lorne Michaels has famously held tightly onto control of the seminal variety show. Whether it’s a movie star, a ... Read more »

Judge's Antisemetic Views Tainted Murder Trial of Texas 7 Escapee, Prosecutors Say

Juan Figueroa | The Dallas Morning News One of the Texas 7 prison escapees convicted in the murder of an Irving police officer should get a new trial because the ... Read more »

Early Voting in Illinois Opens This Week: Here's Where Chicago-Area Residents Can Cast Ballots

The November election may still seem like a long way off, but early voting will begin this week in most of the Chicago area. Under Illinois law, early voting can ... Read more »
Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network