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What are Forever Chemicals?

There’s been a lot of information recently about forever chemicals, but what are they really? 


Forever chemicals have the technical term of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are really long chains of carbon that don’t break down in the environment. It’s a general term for many different types of these chemicals that last forever due to their chemical nature. They’re used in a lot of common household products, because they resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. An example is Teflon, a material that makes non-stick pans non-stick, but they can be found in many products from dental floss, menstrual products, and children’s toys. These chemicals started being integrated into these products in the 1950s, and therefore have made their way throughout our environment and even ourselves! Due to the prevalence of the chemicals, it’s likely that all Americans have some type of PFAs in their blood. While there is still ongoing research on the harmful effects of PFAs, there have been links in increases to cholesterol, changes in liver enzymes, kidney and testicular cancer, among others reports the Center for Disease Control


A Time Magazine investigation found that DuPont and 3M, two major PFAs manufacturers, knew about the dangers in the 1960s. It took until lawsuits in the 1990s, and third party research in the 2000s for the public to become aware of the dangers of the manufacturing plants. 


In 2005, under pressure from a class action lawsuit, the industry stopped manufacturing  two of the most harmful PFAS chemicals: PFOA and PFOS. There are still many environmental groups advocating for removing more types of PFAs from production. Already, the Environmental Protection Agency has regulated the amount of these chemicals that are allowed in drinking water, and is working to add six more types of PFAs to the list by 2026


The EPA is working on establishing new rules that would put the burden of paying for clean-up of PFOA and PFOS on the manufacturing companies instead of taxpayers. Additionally, the new rule would require companies to immediately report releases of these chemicals that are over one pound to a national response center within 24 hours. 




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