Forever Chemicals (now not forever)
PFAS, commonly known as the “Forever Chemicals,” have been in use since the 1940s and are known to cause a variety of serious illnesses in humans, plants and animals. In humans, they are known to cause a variety of cancers and significant endocrine system disruption. Thanks to research and quantum physics, they may no longer be here forever.
Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News
PFAS are often found in consumer items like non-stick cookware and the waterproof breathable fabrics used in rainwear, items that we and our families have high contact with daily. PFAS’ are so toxic that some of the more well-known formulations have been banned in certain countries. Unfortunately, the companies that manufacture them often simply slightly reformulate a new version, skirt the ban and continue to profit from their continued use.
The reason they are called forever chemicals is that there is no known way of easily being removed from our environment. Once created, they are with us forever. They can be incinerated at very high heat, which is very costly, and even then, some PFAS still escape into the atmosphere. They have been filtered from the water, but they are still intact, and the problem has not been solved; only stored in a landfill to become some other generation’s problem. They are in our blood, our groundwater, and our soil. They are in the food we feed our children and the clothes we wear against our skin. They are a big problem that, until very recently, was just getting worse.
When researching a major study on the health effects of PFAS, scientists could not find any pure samples of human blood that did not contain the chemicals. They had to use samples of blood taken from soldiers in the Korean war, a time before the chemicals were first created. These toxic chemicals are now found in almost everyone, everywhere.
Thankfully, researchers have not given up on the idea of finding a way to get rid of these toxins. Scientists at Northwestern University recently published a peer-reviewed study showing that the so-called forever chemicals have a weak link. This weak link may be exploited using a heated solvent that breaks the compound into its separate elements, which are far easier to dispose of.
The process is more effective and less costly to implement due to the fact that the solvent is inexpensive and the lower temperatures required by it are not as costly to implement. It currently works on the two major classes of PFAS, with more research being done to find ways to treat the others. The research is very promising and a huge benefit to humans and the plants and animals we rely on to survive.
While it is apparent that we need stronger restrictions governing how these chemicals are manufactured, used and disposed of, it is very good news that there is finally a way to remove them once and for all.