Scientists in Europe have concluded that levels of man-made “forever chemicals” in rainwater have made it “unsafe to drink” around the world—even in the most remote areas of the planet like Antarctica.
There is now reportedly no safe spot in the world to escape these cancer-causing chemicals.
In a new study published on August 2 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from Stockholm University and ETH Zurich argue that the amounts of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) considered acceptable for drinking water, surface water and soil in official guidelines have decreased “dramatically” over the past 20 years “due to new insights into their toxicity.”
“There has been an astounding decline in guideline values for PFAS in drinking water in the last 20 years,” explained Ian Cousins, a professor at the Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University and lead author of the study.
“Based on the latest US guidelines for PFOA in drinking water, rainwater everywhere would be judged unsafe to drink,” Cousins said.
“Although in the industrial world we don’t often drink rainwater, many people around the world expect it to be safe to drink and it supplies many of our drinking water sources.”
Cousins called the decline “astounding.”
In a press release, Cousins said the recommended safe drinking water guideline value for one chemical in particular—the cancer-causing perfluorooctanoic acid—has dropped by 37.5 million times in the United States.
“Forever chemicals” are a large group of human-made chemicals that are known to cause cancer and don’t occur naturally in nature. They can be found in household items including food packaging, electronics, cosmetics, and cookware because they have non-stick or stain-repellent characteristics.
PFAS are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t ever break down in the environment.
Extensive research has been conducted on the effects being exposed to PFAS may have on one’s health.
According to some of the findings, scientists say these chemicals could be linked to infertility issues, an increased risk of cancer, developmental delays in children, and more.
However, others claim that no cause and effect can be proven.
While one of the compounds’ manufacturer, 3M, has attempted to phase them out for 20 years, scientists warn that some dangerous PFAS are not significantly decreasing in the atmosphere.
“The extreme persistence and continual global cycling of certain PFAS will lead to the continued exceedance of the above-mentioned guidelines,” warned study co-author and professor Martin Scheringer.
Scheringer claims that because of this, “it makes sense to define a planetary boundary specifically for PFAS and, as we conclude in the paper, this boundary has now been exceeded.”
Companies shouldn’t be permitted to “benefit economically while polluting the drinking water for millions of others, and causing serious health problems,” added Jane Muncke, the managing director of the Food Packaging Forum in Switzerland who was not involved in the study.
“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,” Muncke said.
“The time to act is now.”
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