PFAS: Health concerns and efforts to regulate “Forever Chemicals”

2021-11-19

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of thousands of manufactured chemicals widely used by a range of industries and commonly found in a large number of household products. One common characteristic of PFAS is that they persist in the environment and can accumulate in humans and animals. For this reason, they are often referred to as “forever chemicals.”

Some PFAS have been linked to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, decreased immunity, hormone disruption and a range of other serious health problems. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that most people in the United States have been exposed to some PFAS. The chemicals  have been documented in the blood of people and animals around the world, and also have been found to be pervasive in the environment, particularly in areas where manufacturers or other industrial users are actively handling PFAS. 

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2021 released a spreadsheet of more than 120,000 facilities around the United States the regulatory agency fears are handling PFAS. Download that spreadsheet here. 

Researchers have identified the following routes of exposure to PFAS:

Drinking water – in public drinking water systems and private drinking water wells.

Soil and water at or near waste sites – at landfills, disposal sites, and hazardous waste sites.

Fire extinguishing foam – used in training and emergency response events at airports, shipyards, military bases, firefighting training facilities, chemical plants, and refineries.

Manufacturing or chemical production facilities that produce or use PFAS – such as oil and gas drilling sites, chrome plating, electronics, and certain textile and paper manufacturers.

Food – such as fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS and dairy products from livestock exposed to PFAS, and other foods.

Food packaging – such as grease-resistant paper, fast food containers/wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers.

Household products- such as stain and water-repellent used on carpets, upholstery, clothing, and other fabrics; cleaning products; non-stick cookware; paints, varnishes, and sealants.

Personal care products- such as shampoos, dental floss, and cosmetics.

 

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US Right to Know, 19 November 2021
; https://usrtk.org/chemicals/pfas-health-concerns-and-efforts-to-regulate-forever-chemicals/