Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS—a group of persistent toxic chemicals often referred to as “forever chemicals”—are everywhere. Don’t take my word for it. Here is a list posted on the site of the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) agency:
- Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water.
- Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs).
- Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.
- Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).
- Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time
- Infant birth weights
- Effects on the immune system
- Cancer (for PFOA)
- Thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).
PFOA and PFOS are specific kinds of PFAS. Perhaps of most interest right now because of the ongoing pandemic are the deleterious effects of these chemicals on the immune system including reducing the effectiveness of vaccines. And, perhaps the most important thing you need to know about PFAS is that scientists keep reducing their estimates of what is a safe exposure as more data accumulates.
PFAS have been around since the 1950s. So, how did these dangerous chemicals—which don’t break down in the environment—escape the notice of regulatory officials for so long? The answer is all too familiar and echoes similar trajectories for such toxic legacies as unleaded gasoline, glyphosate, chlorofluorocarbons, and bisphenol A.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…