On a rainy day, do you like to splash in puddles and maybe even enjoy sticking out your tongue to catch a few drops of rainwater? Well, you may want to rethink that past time. According to scientists, there are dangerous levels of “forever chemicals” in rainwater everywhere on Earth. These chemicals are known to cause cancer, infertility, and other illnesses, too.
There Are Forever Chemicals in Rainwater All Over The World
Rainwater all over the world is polluted with so-called forever chemicals perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), scientists are telling us. Researchers have linked them to a range of health issues, including cancer, infertility, immune system disorders, and obesity. They believe they enter the environment via industrial emissions, transfer from packaging, wastewater, and evaporation from foams. These include firefighting foams, non-stick frying pans, and textiles (aka clothing). Why are they called forever chemicals, you ask? Because they take thousands of years to decompose. (1)
The scariest thing about these forever chemicals is that scientists are now finding them everywhere. Even in the snow in the world’s most remote of places, like Antarctica and Tibet. What’s worse, they aren’t just present, but they are present in concentrations that are dangerous to human health.
What Are PFAS?
As already mentioned, these are manufactured chemicals found in many everyday products. They are used to keep food from sticking to packaging or cookware and to make clothing and carpets stain-resistant. You can even find it in firefighting foam as it makes its fire-squelching capabilities more effective. (2)
Unfortunately, they are now in our environment, making it easy for them to enter our own bodies. Humans are exposed to PFAS in many ways. These include using PFAS-containing products, consuming PFAS-contaminated food and water, or breathing in air that contains PFAS. The amount of exposure depends on where you live and what kind of products you use.
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Forever Chemicals Are Extremely Toxic
Chemical company 3M first began producing PFAS in the 1950s. Back then, we were not aware yet of just how dangerous these chemicals are. Scientists, however, began connecting the dots and by 2002 3M had all but completely phased these chemicals out of production. Still, they persist in the environment and in many things we use every day.
As scientists have studied further the effects of PFAS on human health, they have decreased the guidelines significantly for what is allowable in drinking water. They can’t control, however, how much is in rainwater. This naturally leads to the pollution of waterways, groundwater, soil, food, and more.
Thanks to modern technology, the level of PFAS has declined in drinking water. Unfortunately, they are not declining very much in the environment. This, again, is because these are forever chemicals that take thousands of years to break down. The scientists now say that based on their data, rainwater everywhere should be considered unsafe to drink.
“Based on the latest US guidelines for PFOA in drinking water, rainwater everywhere would be judged unsafe to drink,” said Professor Ian Cousins, lead author on the latest study of forever chemicals in the environment. “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.”
Professor Cousins says that we are no longer living on a planet that we can consider 100% safe. It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you have, or what kind of lifestyle you live. We are all being exposed daily to these forever chemicals.
“I’m not saying that we’re all going to die of these effects. But we’re in a place now where you can’t live anywhere on the planet, and be sure that the environment is safe.” (3)
Economic Benefit For Very Few
Many are now beginning to speak out about how, while some benefit economically from using these chemicals to make their products, others suffer. This is because many people around the globe rely on rainwater for drinking water. Many are now pointing out how inhumane it is that one person can make millions of dollars while causing other people to get sick and even die because of the pollution their product is creating.
“It cannot be that some few benefit economically while polluting the drinking water for millions of others, and causing serious health problems.“ said Dr Jane Muncke, managing director of the Food Packaging Forum Foundation in Zurich. “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.” (4)
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