There is no safe place to drink rainwater, not even in Antarctica or on the Tibetan Plateau.
Forever Chemicals or PFAS are dangerous chemicals that were created by humans and have been dispersed throughout the atmosphere.
As a result, they can be found in the snow and rain even in the most distant parts of the world.
Due to new insights into its toxicity, guideline values for PFAS in drinking water, surface waterways, and soils have drastically reduced during the last 20 years.
Because of this, the levels in all environmental media are now well above the guidelines.
According to a paper published in Environmental Science & Technology, PFAS are a new planet boundary for unique entities that have already been crossed.
“There has been an astounding decline in guideline values for PFAS in drinking water in the last 20 years,” says Ian Cousins, the lead author of the study, adding “For example, the drinking water guideline value for one well known substance in the PFAS class, namely the cancer-causing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has declined by 37.5 million times in the US”
All rainwater would be deemed dangerous to drink based on the most recent US drinking water standards for PFOA. Although we don’t typically drink rainwater in the modern world, many people believe it to be safe to drink and it provides a lot of our drinking water sources, according to Cousins.
The Stockholm University team has spent the last ten years conducting both laboratory and field research on the atmospheric presence and movement of PFAS.
Researchers have shown that despite the phase-out of some dangerous PFAS by major manufacturer 3M two decades ago, the levels in the atmosphere have not decreased significantly.
PFAS are known to be extremely persistent, however this persistence is also a result of the characteristics of PFAS and the ways in which they cycle naturally from the surface environment back into the atmosphere.
Another major topic of research for the Stockholm University team is the transmission of sea spray aerosols from marine air to seawater, which is a significant natural cycle pathway for PFAS.
According to Professor Martin Scheringer, a co-author of the study from RECETOX, Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and ETH Zurich in Switzerland, “the extreme persistence and continual global cycling of certain PFAS will lead to the continued exceedance of the above-mentioned guidelines.”
Now that PFAS have spread globally, all environmental media will violate environmental quality standards intended to protect human health, and there is not much we can do to lessen the PFAS pollution. Or, to put it another way, it makes sense to establish a planetary threshold particularly for PFAS, and as we conclude in the research, this boundary has already been crossed, according to Scheringer.
PFAS are bad for the environment and your health.
Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl compounds, as well as highly fluorinated chemicals with a similar chemical structure, are together referred to as PFAS. The term “forever chemicals” refers to the fact that all PFAS are either extraordinarily persistent in the environment or degrade into extremely persistent PFAS.
Numerous severe health effects have been linked to PFAS, including cancer, immune system issues, learning and behavioral difficulties in children, infertility, and pregnancy troubles.
Dr. Jane Muncke, who is in charge of the Food Packaging Forum Foundation in Zürich, Switzerland, but is not involved in the work, says, “It cannot be that some few economically benefit while polluting the drinking water for millions of others, and causing serious health problems.
“The vast amounts that it will cost to reduce PFAS in drinking water to levels that are safe based on current scientific understanding need to be paid by the industry producing and using these toxic chemicals.
“The time to act is now.”
Image Credit: Getty
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