Collectively referred to as forever chemicals, PFAS (pronounced pee-fas) are a large family of synthetic chemicals (over 4700) which have extreme stability and persistence, meaning they are highly resistant, do not break down easily and will be with us for a long time, with some forms of these long-lasting chemicals taking over 1000 years to naturally degrade.
First introduced in the 1950s with the breakthrough invention of non-stick cookware. The inclusion of PFAS today is a huge cause for concern. Used in a wide range of applications: weather and water-resistant materials, food packaging, paints, cosmetics, textiles, cleaning products, anti-stain treated carpets, fire-resistant products and fire-extinguishing foams. What was once seen as a beautiful and beneficial science is now viewed as an invention from hell for the damage they are causing to the environment and our health.
Although more needs to be understood about the long-term effects it has on our health, the fact that Europe, the UK and America are taking measures to ban the use of PFAS in all but important applications is enough to tell us that so far, the findings are not good. Manmade chemicals which never break down or go away should be banned and alternatives need to be sought to make our lives safer. These countries are taking the initiative and setting safer limits on the risks these toxic chemicals pose to our health.
Exposure to PFAS is primarily via production and emissions through waste flows which contaminate our air, soils and groundwater and finally end up leaching into our food chain and drinking water. Even touching products and materials containing PFAS is another pathway of contamination, through touch transferal from food packaging and then eating food, we are practically ingesting synthetic chemicals with every meal.
Conservative estimates so far are that at least 98% of us have PFAS in our blood, organs and tissues and alarmingly, the negative effects of these long-lasting synthetic chemicals are still not yet fully understood.
Surviving longer than both the products that contain them and us the consumers, PFAS contamination is a worldwide problem and one that is expected to last for many years to come. They are mobile, they are invisible and they are everywhere.
So what can we do?
Awareness is the key. The nature of these forever chemicals means that for us, this genie cannot be put back in its bottle but our future generations have a right to live a life without the anxiety of fear.
In raising awareness we can start the change needed to minimise the use of non-essential PFAS.
Knowing the household products where they are used allows us to seek alternatives, you’ll be amazed once you start looking into PFAS and where they are used, (pizza boxes, grease-proof baking paper, cosmetics, shampoos, dental floss, waterproof clothing, furniture, paints…the list is endless). However, the main source of leakage of PFAS is our drinking water and we need to protect this valuable resource.
If you would like to know if your water contains PFAS you can contact your local water authority, EPA or local health authority.
For more information on PFAS, what they are, where they are found and what measures you can take to reduce your exposure to them, please click on the links below:
If you’re in the UK, you can sign a petition to ask supermarkets to remove PFAS from food packaging by following the link below:
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