There’s an uncomfortable truth among experts who study a vast family of toxic, long-lived but widely used chemicals called PFAS.
It’s that no-one knows how many there are, let alone the scope of their impacts on human and environmental health.
The Australian government, in its public health advice, talks about “more than 4000”. The National Measurement Institute recently told a contamination conference it’s more like 12,000.
Other researchers say it could be much higher because once PFAS chemicals are out in the world, they can create complex mixtures of intentionally-produced and unintentionally-generated PFAS compounds.
One certainty is that the man-made chemicals are now whirling around the planet and present in the bodies of pretty much every human, even those yet to be born.
Less than a fortnight ago, a team of researchers announced PFAS chemicals were detected in literally all of the 30,000 umbilical cord blood samples used in 40 different studies over the last five years.