Forever chemicals, also known as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), are a group of synthetic compounds used in many industrial processes, consumer products and firefighting foam. These chemicals are called “forever” because they do not easily break down in nature and can remain in the environment for decades or even centuries.
by David Stone
The most common way that these chemicals get into public water systems is through leaching. Groundwater comes in contact with soil and rock that contains PFAS. It then flows into streams, rivers, lakes and other water sources.
Also, wastewater from industrial operations contains PFAS released into rivers and other bodies of water.
While PFAS isn’t necessarily dangerous at low levels, scientists recently found that it may be worse than previously believed.
But Forever Chemicals Have Multiple Known Risks
Forever chemicals have been linked to specific health conditions. Among them are kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis. Long-term exposure to high levels of PFAS is especially hazardous for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women or children.
More worrisome is that the public is generally unaware of forever chemicals in their water, leaving them exposed without their consent.
To help protect the public from potential hazards posed by these forever chemicals, it’s important that we reduce their presence in our environment. This means stricter regulations on wastewater discharges from industries and increased research on alternative materials that can replace those that rely heavily on PFAS compounds.
It’s also important to take steps towards monitoring our drinking water systems in order to ensure that toxic levels of these compounds aren’t present in any given area.