“Forever chemicals” is a commonly used term for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The term “forever chemicals” was coined because these chemicals are not readily degradable, so they never break down in the environment.
PFAS have been found in American groundwater, drinking water, and soil. In a troublesome finding, studies from the CDC show that nearly all Americans have PFAS in their blood, including newborn babies.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) track PFAS contamination reported by federal and state authorities. As of July 2019, PFAS contaminates public drinking water systems serving 19 million people in 49 states. Unreleased federal data suggest that up to 110 million Americans could have PFAS-contaminated drinking water.
What Are the Health Risks of PFAS?
Numerous studies link PFAS to the following conditions:
- Testicular, kidney, liver, and pancreatic cancer.
- Reproductive problems.
- Weakened childhood immunity.
- Low birth weight.
- Endocrine disruption.
- Increased cholesterol.
- Weight gain in children and dieting adults.
How Are People Exposed to PFAS?
PFAS were used widely in manufacturing many industrial and consumer products because they are resistant to heat, water, oil. Decades of heavy use of these chemicals worldwide have contaminated water, soil, and the blood of both humans and animals. Unfortunately, many chemical companies knew the hazards and presence of these chemicals, some as long ago as 1950, but they did not tell anyone.
In one of several historical cases, DuPont knew its Teflon product was contaminating the drinking water of tens of thousands of people near its Parkersburg, West Virginia plant. A class action lawsuit revealed the contamination and led to further studies linking Teflon to cancer and other diseases.
PFAS do not readily degrade in the environment and are very mobile in water. Once they are released into the environment during manufacturing or leaking from a consumer product, they migrate into the water and remain intact for a long period of time. This allows them to be transported over long distances. PFAS have been found even in the most remote areas of the world.
Are PFAS Still Being Used?
The most infamous PFAS chemicals were phased out in the U.S. under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, they are still permitted in items imported to the United States.
Since the phase-out, the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have allowed many replacements that chemical companies claim are safe. However, some studies show that these replacement chemicals may pose an even greater risk than the original ones.
PFAS continue to be found or used in the following:
- Industrial discharge into drinking water, groundwater, and soil. There are currently no restrictions on industrial PFAS discharges under the federal Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act.
- The military used firefighting foam for decades despite knowing its hazards and is now fighting efforts to clean up the contamination and pollution.
- The new nonstick coating on cookware may not be safer than the original.
- Chemicals used in paper and cardboard wrappers, such as fast food and bakery containers, popcorn bags, and pizza boxes.
- Stain-resistant furniture and treated carpets.
- Clothes and equipment labeled stain- or water-repellent.
- Certain cosmetics and personal care products, including hair conditioners, foundation cream, sunscreen, and more.
- Electronics, including smartphones.
It should be noted that thousands of PFAS currently in use lack proper toxicological data.
How Can I Protect Myself From PAFS?
Because government, business, and industry oversight is lacking, consumers should take it upon themselves to protect themselves and their families against PFAS toxins. Suggestions include:
- Do not use nonstick cookware.
- Cook more at home to avoid fast-food and takeout containers/wrappings.
- Check for clothing and other textiles for PFAS-free labels.
- Avoid cosmetics, dental floss, and other products with “fluoro” or PTFE in their ingredient lists.
- Have your tap water tested and use bottled water if needed.
- Become active in the fight against harmful toxins in our environment and products. Join an activist group or keep pressure on your local and state governments.
- Do not use rugs, furniture, or carpeting with stain-resistant coatings.
- Contact an environmental lawyer if you fall ill or believe you have been exposed to a forever chemical. You have rights and should not have to suffer from a company or government’s irresponsible behavior. A lawyer will determine if a toxic tort claim is the best option.
The Government’s Latest Response to the PFAS Crisis
In October 2021, the EPA announced plans for regulating these toxic chemicals. It is the first federal attempt to reduce PFAS through enforceable limits. Among their intended efforts:
- Support research on the toxic compounds.
- Restrict contamination.
- Invest in clean-up efforts in highly polluted areas.
- Require chemical manufacturers to test and publicly report on the amount of PFAS in their products.
- Limit the usage and discharge of PFAS in drinking water and soil.
- Consider designating certain PFAS as hazardous substances and require polluters to clean up sites under the Superfund law.
Some environmental and health advocates say the EPA’s plan is too little, too late. It remains to be seen how successful the EPA is in safeguarding the public’s health by limiting exposure to dangerous PFAS chemicals.
Warren Environmental Lawyers at Herold Law, P.A. Can Help You if You Believe You Are Ill Because of an Environmental Toxin
Our Warren environmental lawyers at Herold Law, P.A. can help you if you have become sick due to exposure to a dangerous chemical or other toxins. We will protect your rights and determine if you are eligible to recover compensation for your damages. Call us today at 908-647-1022 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Warren, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas, including Plainfield.