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According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAs are man-made chemicals that are used to make nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, cosmetics, firefighting forms and many other products that resist grease, water and oil. In manufacturing industry, they are used in processes such as metal finishing and plating, hydraulic fluids and semiconductor.
What Are PFAS?
A class of manmade chemicals known as PFAS—which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—is part of what makes these consumer goods water-, stain-, and grease-resistant. PFAS are also toxic at extremely low parts per trillion, posing significant risks to our health.
PFAS are a family of thousands of human-made substances – nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment – that have been widely used since the 1940s in a huge range of everyday consumer products and industrial processes.
The chemical structure of PFAS is one thing that differentiates them from other chemicals. An organic molecule has bonds of carbon and hydrogen atoms. To make PFAS molecules, you replace the hydrogen with fluorine. So PFAS are molecules that have chains of fluorine-carbon bonds, and it’s incredibly difficult to break these bonds.
Why PFAS Are Known As “Forever Chemicals”?
The reason these man-made chemicals, the PFAS, are called forever chemicals is that most of these chemicals do not break down. They usually remain in the environment for very longer periods of time. In some cases, these PFAS can also accumulate and build up in animals and humans if they are exposed to these chemicals.
How Harmful Are PFAS?
PFAS Chemicals are hazardous to health. It would be very wrong to consider these man-made chemicals harmless, as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mentions a myriad of health concerns that can be a result of exposure to PFAS. Some of these health risks include developmental effects in children, diminished fertility, changes in body hormones, and increased levels of cholesterol. Such chemicals may also sow seeds for certain types of cancers.
PFAS can be harmful to both humans and wildlife. Two of the most studied of the chemicals in this family, PFOA and PFOS have been shown to:
- Interfere with the hormonal system (so they are called endocrine disruptors)
- Interfere with the reproductive system and the development of the foetus
- Impact the immune system and have been linked to reduced responses to vaccines in children
- Promote the development of certain cancers (e.g. kidney and testicular cancer)
How PFAS Exposed To Humans?
PFAS are exposed to humans by some of the products we using regularly and directly by environmental routes such as drinking water and certain food. Contamination of drinking water with PFAS is an extreme challenge and becomes a rising issue for humans. No longer able to ignore the issue, in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has created a list of more than 120,000 locations where people may be exposed to PFAS.
Extention Of Contamination
PFAS are more energetic in water and cannot be easily degrade into the environment. That means when they reached the environment PFAS tend to migrate in the water and remain intact for very long periods of time. This allows them to move over long distances even in the most remote areas such as the Arctic. They have also been detected in the blood and breastmilk of people and wildlife globally.
How PFAS Can Be Regulated?
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international protocol that aims to vanish or restrict the manufacturing and use of the most toxic chemicals of global concern. Currently, two sub-group of PFAS are listed in the convention: They are PFOS and PFOA. They have been banned or restricted because of their toxic, persistent and bio accumulative effects.
How To Avoid PFAS?
Following are some steps to avoid exposing to PFAS by regularly using products.
- Check product labels for ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or “perfluoro.”
- Be aware of packaging for foods that contain grease-repellent coatings. Examples include microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers and boxes.
- Avoid stain-resistance treatments. Choose furniture and carpets that aren’t marketed as “stain-resistant,” and don’t apply finishing treatments to these or other items. Avoid clothing, luggage, camping, and sport equipment that were treated for water or stain resistance.
- Avoid or reduce use of non-stick cookware. Stop using products if non-stick coatings show signs of wear.
How To Reduce PFAS Level In Drinking Water?
To reduce exposure to PFAS and protect health, reduce or eliminate the use of drinking water containing PFAS or supplement it with an alternative source.
Alternate sources of drinking water include:
- Water from a source that has been tested for PFAS and has levels below the Wisconsin Recommended Groundwater Enforcement Standard level of 20 parts per trillion
- Water from a treatment system certified by ANSI/NSF Standards 53 or 58 to reduce PFAS.
- Bottled water that is labeled with the NSF and/or IBWA seal.
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