How do Forever Chemicals contribute to climate change? Is PFAS deadly?

The cosmetics and chemicals in the cosmetics make their way through the drainage system into the soil, oceans, and other bodies of water after you wash your face. These chemicals never go through any filtration or cleaning process before they are disposed of in rivers and soil. Ultimately, these toxins are consumed in food and water as part of our daily lives. It is a serious threat, and yet, we are still unaware of it. It is called Forever Chemicals a.k.a PFAS. Today, these forever chemicals are contributing towards the adversity of climate change as well.

We say that diamonds are forever, we say some friendships are forever. Contrary to diamonds, friendship, and emotional bonds, chemical bonds are also forever, and they’re extremely dangerous. Moreover, they can reduce our responses to vaccines, limit our growth, increase cholesterol, and can lead to heart diseases. In short, these chemicals can shorten our life span, and ironically these chemicals are called Forever chemicals.

Figure 4-1. Example of expected orientation and accumulation of PFAS at the air-water interface.
Source: D. Adamson, GSI. Used with permission.

Where are these PFAS Forever Chemicals are found?

Forever Chemicals are raining on us and further contributing towards the climate disaster. This harmful environment is being continually polluted by these harmful chemicals by evaporation. Along with this carbon emission danger, this another carbon-fluorine variant has added more to our struggle for fighting against climate change.

Ask yourself, Have you applied sunscreen today? The egg you made this morning, was on a non-stick pan; the food you ordered a couple of days ago, was it delivered in a takeaway container. If any of that is yes, then Well you have exposed yourself to forever chemicals.

The chemical structure of PFAS

Forever chemicals are synthetic compounds made up of Carbon and Fluorine. Due to their strongest bonding ability, they cannot be broken down by heat, sunlight, or water. Most chemicals can be broken down by these methods, but not forever chemicals. These chemicals will last for generations, hence they are named Forever Chemicals.

The impacts of Forever Chemicals on us and on the climate change?

The amount of chemicals found in the river Ganga in India is astounding. All the fish tested had forever chemicals in them. Interestingly, they are now found everywhere. โ€” 198 different chemicals were detected in the breast milk of Indian women in 2008 – with a 46 PPT average, but NOTE the safe limit is 1 PPT, i.e. 1 Part Per Trillion. So basically we are talking 46 times more than the safe limit.

We usually don’t think about what chemicals are present in our clothes before getting dressed in the morning. Yet, there is an extremely dangerous group of chemicals present in virtually everything we use on a daily basis, from our waterproof jackets to our food wrappers and non-stick frying pans. It is known as PFAS, A.K.A. Forever Chemical.

The PFAS chemicals can damage our hearts, livers, reproductive systems, and kidneys. They can also increase a pregnant woman’s blood pressure leading to birth defects and dangerous conditions like preeclampsia. PFAS can change liver enzymes and can decrease the vaccine response in children.

I am putting across these diligent facts because now it is high time to know about PFAS, the forever chemical.

PFAS chemicals are one of the most dangerous toxic chemicals on earth, and their manufacture both pollutes people and the environment and emits potent greenhouse gases causing considerable climate change effects. Another notion is that climate change in turn also makes the PFAS (forever chemicals) crisis even worse.

The DuPont Parkersburg – The deadly story of PFAS in history

With regards to chemical control, Europe and the USA have been committed to it since 2000; however, this story has yet to be told in other parts of the world. In 2020, Denmark became the first country to ban PFAS in food packaging. And they have already seen a reasonable reduction in PFAS materials usage.

For more than 50 years, the world has been exposed to an unregulated class of cancer-causing chemicals found in items such as pots, pans, clothes, and even toys. Around 70,000 people in Parkersburg, the USA were affected by Teflon-polluted drinking water from a DuPont chemical plant. This story became the basis for the film Dark Waters, which is both very popular and very interesting – definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it yet.

DuPont invented the PFAS chemical and patented it as Teflon, All of you would have heard this word. for which the well know company 3M became its main manufacturer. In 2001, this scandal erupted in Parkersburg after the discovery of the Teflon chemical in the drinking water of tens of thousands of people near a DuPont plant. (The story got well documented in the film โ€œThe Devil We Know.โ€) โ€” watch that too.

The chemical company, DuPont, dispose of highly toxic PFOA (C8) waste from Teflon products into the Parkersburg, WV area and surrounding water districts; poisoning residents, wildlife, land, and water supplies.

A class-action lawsuit uncovered evidence DuPont knew PFAS was hazardous and had contaminated tap water but didnโ€™t tell its workers, local communities, or environmental officials. The lawsuit also triggered studies linking the Teflon chemical to cancer and other diseases.

The stringent mindset to eradicate PFAS

This problem is rooted in the entire system, the FDA allows the food and chemical industry to determine which ingredients are safe for consumption. But it is more important that the FDA take a second look themselves rather than being totally dependent on the remarks of these chemical-driven industries. They should test all food chemicals for safety. There should be no skip for them in that.

These ‘ delay, deny and distractโ€™ tactics have been used by these industries for decades, we have seen that when the debates were addressing climate change, we have seen when debates were addressing the tobacco industries.

But โ€œAt the end of the day it all comes down to money. These industries are more than willing to sacrifice public health, frontline communities, and our environment for profit,โ€

Abhilash Shukla

Just like Covid-19, these Forever Chemicals have been spreading at an alarming rate. I am talking about the chemical which is deadly and it is in our blood too. Scientists say that 98% of the world population has forever chemicals in their body. This is a man-made disaster, we started synthesizing our environment, from world war to pizza boxes, from lipstick to frying eggs in non-stick pans.

Forever Chemicals are raining on us and further contributing towards the climate disaster. Evaporation exposes those harmful chemicals to the environment, which in turn affects every square inch of the planet. Along with this carbon emission danger, this another carbon-fluorine variant has added more to our struggle for fighting against climate change.

Unfortunately, there isnโ€™t much that can be done about the already contaminated PFAS. At this point, the chemicals have become ubiquitous, as the water has been contaminated. Until we learn to stop using such man-made toxins on our food, cookware, and clothing, weโ€™re kind of stuck.

The conscious step towards fighting Forever Chemicals

However, getting rid of PFAS is possible. Industries and governments have to assure that the use of those 4,700 identified harmful PFAS chemicals should be banned strictly. It should not be used in industries from food to fashion, cosmetics to agriculture, means anywhere.

Governments should focus on this significant legislative gap. Given chemical companies are the ones with deep pockets, it should be regulated in a way that the industries are mandated to provide enough data to the governments so that they are able to quickly make a decision about its toxicity. Governments are required to get more educated to be fair in addressing this issue.

Location names: Numbers correspond to the locations on the map showing PFAS concentrations in Canadian surface water. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Big brands like Kelloggโ€™s, CoverGirl, Lโ€™Oreal to name a few, who are still using forever chemicals should take a responsible step of discontinuing them and should set up an example in their respective industries.

As conscious citizens, Next time you pick up a pizza from your favorite pizza outlet and toss the box in your front seat, think about why the grease doesnโ€™t saturate through the cardboard onto your upholstery. Or when you hear popcorn bursting in a bag in your microwave, consider why the oil doesnโ€™t ooze out and the paper doesnโ€™t burst into flames, even when some kernels turn black too.

The answer is likely to be PFAS only, Part of the challenge is that tracking these forever chemicals alongside our health condition, may take years to become visible. Scientists and environmental advocates have been sounding the alarm about these persistent โ€œforever chemicals,โ€ which break down very slowly and can contaminate groundwater, and end up in rivers and oceans.

Closing Note: Forever Chemicals & Climate Change

Itโ€™s high time for us to start acting on it now. Identify these potentially harmful ingredients. Look at your product labels for the term PTFE or PFAS or โ€œfluoro,โ€ which may appear in a longer name also, like perfluorononyl dimethicone or perfluorodecalin. And do not buy them, as these forever chemicals are known for killing slowly and softly.

Also, get your drinking water tested. And use the right filtration systems so that partial effects can be brought down.

One of the highest levels of PFAS was identified in lipstick, mascara, and whitening foundations. So next time you buy them, check the PFAS terms that I have just said.

Since the Arctic region is warming at a rate that is more than twice the global average, the sea ice which remained frozen for several years is now melting every summer.

In 2012, San Francisco firefighter Heather Buren learned of the risk from years of direct exposure to PFAS and other toxic chemicals encountered in her job. (Submitted by Heather Buren)

On LinkedIn, I met a marine worker who have mentioned a few articles on PFAS Arctic issues. When I spoke with her, she made a fearful statement. Every time she gets sick, she asks herself in her head: Is this my job? Artic is dramatically affected by these forever chemicals and the subsequent climate change effects. People have gone helpless, but we need to fight from all sides.

Humanity has the strength to fight the worst, and this is the worst that we need to defeat.

โ–บ DISCLAIMER โ—„

Information provided in the podcast is a general guide from a personal perspective and does not constitute legal or authoritative advice. The statistics and regulations referred to in the podcast are sourced from the public information bureau and are subject to change with time. It is the viewer’s responsibility to verify the currency of information.

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