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HomeSciencePollution: the quantities of "forever chemicals" in rainwater surpass permissible limits.

Pollution: the quantities of “forever chemicals” in rainwater surpass permissible limits.

New research indicates that rainwater in the majority of regions on Earth includes chemical concentrations that “vastly exceed” safety standards.

These synthetic compounds, known as PFAS, are utilized in non-stick cookware, firefighting foam, and water-resistant clothing.

They are known as “forever chemicals” because they remain in the environment for years.

As a result of their current prevalence, scientists assert that there is no safe space on Earth to avoid them.

Pollution: the quantities of "forever chemicals" in rainwater surpass permissible limits.

According to academics at Stockholm University, it is “vital” that the use of these substances be controlled immediately.

Scientists are concerned that PFAS may pose health hazards, such as cancer, despite the inconclusive nature of current data. In recent years, they have become increasingly concerned about the proliferation of PFAS.

The acronym PFAS refers to poly- and perfluoroalkyl compounds.

There are approximately 4,500 of these fluorine-based compounds, and they can be found in almost every home on Earth in hundreds of products, such as food packaging, nonstick cookware, rain gear, adhesives, paper, and paints.

Pollution: the quantities of "forever chemicals" in rainwater surpass permissible limits.
Pollution: the quantities of "forever chemicals" in rainwater surpass permissible limits.

There have also been safety concerns regarding the presence of these persistent substances in drinking water.

In England, PFAS levels in water samples were above European safety standards but did not exceed the current safety standard in England and Wales.

This new study, which examines four specific PFAS chemicals, indicates that levels of one PFAS in rainwater from around the world frequently “greatly exceed” US drinking water advisory levels.

According to the research, the soil is similarly affected throughout the planet.

The findings of the study lead the authors to the conclusion that a planetary limit has been exceeded; there is no longer a safe place on Earth to avoid these substances.

Prof. Ian Cousins, the lead author from Stockholm University, stated, “We claim here that we are no longer within this safe operating zone, as there are now chemicals everywhere and these safety advisories are no longer achievable.”

“I am not suggesting that we will all perish from these impacts. However, you can no longer live anyplace on the earth and be certain that the environment is safe.”

Even though this is cause for alarm, there are a few caveats.

Many of these safety standards are advisory, which means they are not legally binding.

Others think that action on these compounds should be delayed until the health effects are more conclusively demonstrated.

Scientists suggest that exposure to high amounts of PFAS may be related to an increased risk of some malignancies, fertility problems, and developmental delays in children.

However, correlations do not establish causation, and other researchers have not shown a link between PFAS and disease.

For those who have spent years dealing directly with PFAS, however, the latest research paper’s findings demonstrate the necessity for a precautionary approach.

“In this background rain, the concentrations already exceed the environmental quality limits. According to Professor Crispin Halsall of the University of Lancaster, this indicates that, over time, these substances will have a statistically significant impact on human health. He did not participate in the Swedish study.

“How will that manifest itself? I’m unsure, but it will become apparent over time since we’re reaching concentrations that can cause harm to individuals due to exposure in their drinking water.”

It is possible, albeit costly, to remove the contaminants in the study from drinking water at treatment plants.

According to the authors, however, achieving concentrations below the U.S. recommended levels is exceedingly difficult.

Over the past two decades, as scientists have learned more about PFAS, the safety warnings have gradually dropped.

Similarly, the presence of these compounds in soil has increased, which is also generating concerns.

In 2018, the Dutch infrastructure ministry established new PFAS content limits for soil and dredging material.

However, this halted 70 percent of construction projects involving soil removal or the usage of excavated material. Following protests, the government loosened the regulations.

This type of relaxation of safety thresholds is expected to occur with water contamination, according to the current study.

Prof. Ian Cousins stated, “If you implemented those criteria everywhere, you could not construct anywhere.”

“I believe they will do the same with US drinking water advisories, as they are impractical to implement.

“It is not because the risk assessment is flawed in any way. It is simply because you cannot apply such concepts. From an economic standpoint, it is just impossible to adopt any of these recommendations.”

The primary difficulty with these compounds, according to the authors of the study, is their persistence, not their toxicity.

Even though some dangerous PFAS were phased out by manufacturers twenty years ago, they continue to exist in water, air, and soil.

Tiny particles carried by sea spray into the air and then back to land are one way that PFAS cycle through the environment.

According to a recent analysis by Professor Halsall, due to their incapacity to degrade in the environment, PFAS are now even present in remote Antarctic regions.

While there are efforts at the European level to restrict the use of these chemicals and develop more benign substitutes, it is hoped that the industrial sector would swiftly abandon the usage of PFAS.

Prof. Cousins stated, “We require persistent chemicals and compounds because we want our products to survive a long time while in use.”

“There are conservative voices in the industry, but there are also progressive actors. When I see these innovative industries cooperating, I am filled with optimism.”


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