Update: According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned on June 15, 2022 that the chemical compounds known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly found in drinking water, food packaging and cosmetics, may pose a greater danger to human health than regulators previously thought.
Popular for moisture-repellent fabrics, flame-retardant equipment and nonstick cookware because they are highly durable, the chemicals accumulate in the body. These “forever chemicals “could include as many as 4,700 chemicals. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down and remain in the environment and in human bodies indefinitely.
At this point, the EPA does not regulate PFAS. According to a news report on verywellhealth.com, the EPA published its initial plan to limit PFAS in public drinking water. PFAS, also called “forever chemicals, “are a synthetic compound that does not break down and remains in the environment and inside the human body forever. PFA’s have been linked to significant and serious health issues such as prenatal development issues in children, Immunosuppression, cancer, thyroid disease, and liver disease. The EPA’s plan is the first step by any federal regulatory agency to hold manufacturers responsible and clean public drinking water sources.
Most Americans were exposed to PFAS using fast-food wrappers, nonstick pans, and certain cosmetics. When these chemicals are manufactured, thereby products can enter waterways and soil, contaminating both drinking water supplies and wildlife. Once these chemicals are consumed, they enter the bloodstream and can contaminate organs leading to serious and adverse health effects, including thyroid disease, liver disease, developmental deficiencies in babies, and several types of cancer.
Although the EPA is considering new laws and regulations concerning the use and cleanup of these chemicals, some experts believe that it’s too late. For over 80 years, manufacturers like 3M and Dupont have used PFAS because the chemical resists heat, liquids, staining, and grease. Those properties were helpful, and products like raincoats, food wrappers, fire retardants, pizza boxes, waterproof mascara, carpeting, and many more consumer products. However, PFAS has entered the airway and water supply when chemical manufacturers incorrectly dispose of these chemicals at industrial sites. For example, fire folding foam used at military bases in airports pollutes groundwater that supplies drinking water to nearby communities. PFAS cannot be removed from drinking water using current drinking water processing processes.
In 2015, the EPA banned the manufacturer of PFOA and PFOS. However, these two toxic chemicals have been found in drinking water that supplies more than 200 million Americans. Since then, there have been hundreds of independent studies that have found PFAS to cause thyroid function problems, elevated cholesterol levels, thyroid disruption issues, low birth weight, cognitive development problems, adverse pregnancy issues, and cancers, including thyroid and liver. Some studies have found that these compounds can disrupt the immune response to vaccines and cause infectious disease resistance. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that these chemicals could cause a COVID-19 vaccinated person to become more susceptible to COVID-19.
What experts are most concerned about is the long half-life of these compounds. These chemicals can take hundreds or thousands of years to degrade, and the chemicals accumulate in the human body, causing organ damage. Although researchers have not pinpointed how PFAS causes chronic disease in clinical trials, the connection has already been confirmed by government agencies such as the EPA and the CDC.
The Department of Defense is conducting an assessment of possible PFAS contamination at approximately 700 of its installations. Many other federal agencies are conducting studies on how PFAS affects workers who are at high exposure risks, like firefighters and chemical plant workers. It’s believed that it could take more than ten years for the nearly 5,000 PFAS chemicals to be assessed for adverse medical events.
Water utilities have attempted to filter out these chemicals from public drinking water systems but were unsuccessful. Moreover, more chemicals enter the environment when smokestacks release the chemicals into the air, and the chemicals settle on trees and then wash into water sources when it rains. The only way it would be possible to provide PFAS-free drinking water would be to impose stringent regulations and ban the use of products that use these chemicals. However, the news report states that experts believe that “avoiding PFAS is entirely impossible at this point.”
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