According to recent studies, the chemical concentrations in rainwater “greatly exceed” safety standards in most parts of the world.
Non-stick cookware, firefighting foam, and water-resistant clothing all make use of PFAS, a class of synthetic chemicals.
They’ve been given the moniker “forever chemicals” because of how long they stay in the environment.
Their current pervasiveness has led experts to declare that no place on Earth is immune.
Immediately limiting access to these chemicals is “vitally necessary,” according to the Stockholm University researchers.
Although research has been inconclusive so far, scientists are concerned that PFAS may pose health hazards, including cancer. There has been a steady rise in their worries over PFAS in recent years.
Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a widely used acronym for these dangerous chemicals.
There are over 4,500 different fluorine-based compounds used in a wide variety of common household items. These items can be found in practically any home on Earth.
There have been worries voiced regarding the potential dangers of ingesting water containing these persistent chemicals.
This year, a BBC investigation discovered PFAS in English water samples at concentrations that were over the European safety limit but below the existing safety limit in England and Wales.
Based on their analysis of four representative chemicals in this class, the authors of a new study conclude that one PFAS frequently “greatly exceeds” US drinking water recommendation thresholds in rainwater around the world.
There is evidence to imply that soil all across the world is poisoned.
Based on their research, the authors conclude that a planetary barrier has been breached and that there is no longer somewhere on Earth where these compounds can be safely avoided.
Professor Ian Cousins of Stockholm University, who authored the study, argued that “we now have these chemicals everywhere, and these safety advisories, we can’t achieve them anymore” because of the proliferation of hazardous materials.
“No, I don’t think we’re all going to perish from these consequences. These days, however, there is no area on Earth where you may safely raise a family.”
Although this should raise some red flags, there are important caveats to consider.
Many of the current safety standards are merely recommendations and not legally binding.
Others in the scientific community argue that further proof of the health concerns posed by these substances is necessary before any action should be taken.
The health consequences of PFAS have been studied extensively, and scientists have found that exposure at high levels may increase the risk of some malignancies, fertility problems, and developmental delays in children.
These links between PFAS and disease are just suggestive, however, and other investigations have shown no causality.
For those who have spent years dealing with PFAS, however, the latest research paper highlights the necessity of taking extra precautions.
“The values in this ambient precipitation exceed the set standards for environmental quality. This suggests that the long-term effects of these substances on human health will become statistically significant “Lancaster University Professor Crispin Halsall made this statement. In other words, he did not take part in the research conducted in Sweden.
“If so, how do you anticipate that materialising? I don’t know, but eventually we’ll find out, because we’re already exposing people to dangerously high levels of contaminant in their drinking water.”
Although it would be costly, it is possible to remove the contaminants examined in the study from drinking water at treatment plants.
However, the authors state that it is exceedingly difficult to get levels below the US guideline threshold.
Researchers have learned more about PFAS in the past 20 years, thus the government’s warnings against them have gradually became less strict.
The same thing has happened with these chemicals in the soil, and it’s also an issue.
New limits for PFAS concentrations in soil and dredging material were established in 2018 by the Dutch infrastructure ministry.
As a result, 70 percent of excavation and construction projects were put on hold. The government loosened the restrictions after public outcry.
A similar reduction in precautionary levels is likely to occur with water contamination, the latest study suggests.
“Incorrect risk assessment is not the reason. You simply lack the ability to put those concepts into practise. From an economic standpoint, it is just impossible to adhere to any of those rules.”