What Are Forever Chemicals?
“Forever chemicals” is a term that is used to refer to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). They are a group of over 9,000 man-made chemicals that are resistant to degradation in the environment and can persist for a very long time, hence the name “forever chemicals.”
PFAS chemicals are used for a variety of purposes due to their unique chemical properties, including resistance to heat, water, and oil. They are used in products such as non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, water-resistant clothing, firefighting foams, and food packaging. They have also been used in industrial processes, such as metal plating and electronics manufacturing.
PFAS are persistent in the environment and do not break down easily, which means that they can accumulate in the environment, in wildlife, and in the human body. These chemicals can enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact, and once they enter the body, they can accumulate in the liver, kidneys, and other organs. They are commonly found in drinking water, which is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem throughout the United States.
How Prevalent Are Forever Chemicals?
It is difficult to tell exactly how prevalent PFAS chemicals are in the environments we live in. However, according to a study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAS chemicals can be found in the blood of 97% of individuals living in the U.S.
Additionally, there is an interactive map that shows you areas where there have been instances of contamination, particularly regarding forever chemicals in water. This map can help you determine whether you are in an area with an increased risk of PFAS exposure and take the proper precautions to limit your risk.
What Are the Dangers of Forever Chemicals?
For decades, studies have linked exposure to PFAS to a variety of health problems, including developmental delays, low birth weight, immune system dysfunction, thyroid disease, and certain types of cancer. These health effects are of particular concern for communities near PFAS manufacturing sites or sites where PFAS have been used, as these communities may have higher levels of exposure to these chemicals.
How Can You Limit Your Risk of Consuming Forever Chemicals?
The widespread use and persistence of PFAS have led to growing concern about their impact on the environment and human health. Many governments around the world have taken action to regulate PFAS use and exposure, including the European Union and the United States.
In March of 2023, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set new legal drinking water limits for 6 of the most common, toxic, and most studied PFAS compounds. This action marks the first time in 26 years that the EPA has adjusted the legal limits for a particular contaminant in drinking water. These new limits will require municipal utility companies and water treatment plants to remove the specified contaminants from drinking water, resulting in safer water for U.S. citizens.
However, these changes may take time to fully adopt, and there is also still the risk of contamination by other PFAS compounds. So what can you do to limit your risk of consuming forever chemicals?
One of the best ways to reduce PFAS chemicals in drinking water is by using water filters with activated carbon. Activated carbon treatment helps to remove PFAS from water by adsorbing the contaminants. Adsorption is a physical and chemical process where a substance—like PFAS—sticks on a surface at the junction between the liquid and solid phases.
Activated carbon is often referred to as granular activated carbon (GAC) and is made from organic materials with high carbon contents, like coal, lignite, and wood. Activated carbon materials are highly porous and have a large surface area for contaminants to adsorb to. This type of water treatment reduces the level of PFAS contaminants and makes for safer drinking water.
In order to make sure you and your loved ones are safe and avoid PFAS chemicals in water, consider using a water filter with activated carbon. At Aqua Clara, we provide access to clean water by designing, developing, and disseminating clean water technologies to benefit those who live on less than $2 per day. We also aim to provide safe drinking water by offering our Universal Cartridge Filter, which reduces many different contaminants. You can purchase a filter directly from our website, or they are also now available at Wal-Mart.
Our Universal Cartridge Filter fits most household filter products, includes a rubber seal to protect against contamination, and will purify your home’s drinking water at a reasonable price. The proceeds from these filters help fund our projects all over the world, so consider helping us make a difference by purchasing a filter today!