Atmospheric levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ are at an all-time high that rainwater everywhere contains amounts unsafe for long-term human consumption, scientists say. Hazardous pollutants known as poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and perfluoroalkyl, which are called ‘forever chemicals’ as they break down slowly over time, are present at high levels in environments across the world that scientists believe the ubiquitous contamination has now exceeded a safe planetary boundary, reported a new study.
These chemicals are in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the rain, and even our blood. PFAS pollution is known to affect the immune system negatively, but the full impact of exposure on ecological and human health is not known. In light of the multiple questions about this pollution, scientists led by Ian Cousins, a professor of environmental science at Stockholm University, have conducted field tests of four kinds of PFAS and analyzed numerous other measurements. The team now warns, “Even in these remote and sparsely populated regions, such as Antarctica and the Tibetan plateau, the most stringent PFAs guidelines are exceeded,” according to a study published last week in Environmental Science & Technology.
“Initially, we thought that areas, where people live, would be contaminated so that guidelines couldn’t be achieved there,” Cousins noted in an email. “We were surprised by how low the new US EPA lifetime health advisories were for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. They were published while we were finalizing our manuscript.”