Over the past few years, the term “forever chemicals” has become increasingly more common in the news and in scientific articles, as more discoveries of their reach and studies on their impact have been released. For many, the term itself can feel like a scare tactic, the latest in a line of noteworthy and newsworthy chemicals whose reporting can generate ratings for the current news cycle. To help you better understand why forever chemicals are important to learn about and understand, here is a list of several important facts that everyone should know about these chemicals.
“Forever Chemicals” = PFAS
The term “forever chemicals” refers to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, aka PFAS, which include the subcategories PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate). They are called forever chemicals because they don’t break down easily, and don’t dissolve in water. Forever chemicals in the environment can take hundreds of years to break down naturally – if they even do so at all. This means that every bit of PFAS created will stick around for centuries, affecting people for generations to come.
PFAS have been used for eight decades
PFAS has been in use in commercial products since the 1940s to help make everyday items resistant to moisture, heat, and stains. The fact that PFAS has been used in so many products over such a long time helps explain why PFAS contamination is so widespread.
PFAS are used in a wide range of manufactured products
PFAS are used in products such as nonstick cookware, clothing, carpets, upholstery, aerospace products, construction materials, electronics, military products, and firefighting products.
PFAS can last a millennium
Some forms of PFAS will take up to 1000 years or more to break down in the environment. A product containing PFAS manufactured in 2022 may still contain PFAS in the year 3022!
PFAS will be present in everything for a long time
Because PFAS does not naturally break down easily, every bit of PFAS created remains present in some form in people, plants, animals, and the environment. PFAS is in the soil, in the water, in plants, in the air – in everything.
PFAS enters the environment both from manufacturing and from product usage
PFAS chemicals can enter the environment as production waste during product manufacture, during application to finished products, and during usage of PFAS-containing products by consumers.
PFAS can be present in cosmetics
More than half of the 200+ cosmetics products tested in a 2021 study were found to contain PFAS. These cosmetics products include foundations, waterproof mascaras, lip products, lotions, cleansers, nail polish, shaving cream, eyeliner, and eyeshadow.
PFAS has been found in every type of water source
PFAS contamination has been discovered in rainwater, groundwater, tap water, rivers, lakes, and oceans.
PFAS is harmful to aquatic creatures
PFAS contamination in water has been shown to affect the immune system, kidney function, and liver function of dolphins and sea otters. Fish and other sea creatures contaminated with PFAS pass that contamination along to the creatures that eat those fish.
PFAS can transfer from food containers to the food we eat
Packaging and containers that contain PFAS can leach these chemicals into food, which in turn can transfer these chemicals to our bodies through ingestion.
PFOA exposure has been linked to many diseases
A 6-year study of almost 70,000 people found links between PFOA exposure and diseases and conditions including high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
Even low levels of PFAS exposure can be harmful
A 2012 study of children from the relatively isolated Faroe Islands found that even low levels of PFAS contamination from the environment compromised their immune systems, causing lessened effects from vaccines and increased risk of infections.
Not all carbon block filters can treat PFAS in water
Despite the filtration benefits of solid carbon blocks, not all carbon block filters are effective at treating PFAS in drinking water. The best way to know if a carbon block can treat PFAS is to see if the filter is NSF-certified for the reduction of PFAS in drinking water (NOTE: Multipure’s Aqualuxe and Aquaperform are NSF-certified for PFOA/PFOS filtration).
Filtering your drinking water is one of the main ways to reduce your exposure to PFAS
PFAS is so prevalent in everything that it is impossible to avoid completely. Using a water filter that is NSF-certified to treat the presence of PFOA/PFOS is one way to ensure that the water you drink, cook with, and wash and prepare foods with is not contaminated by these forever chemicals.
Although there are still many more studies that need to be completed to understand the effects of PFAS and how to curb or remove PFAS contamination, there are still actions that you can do to reduce the effects of PFAS on your family and household. Being aware of the problem and being knowledgeable about PFAS contamination is a great first step. Changing your habits to reduce your usage of nonstick, stain-resistant, or fire-resistant products that rely on PFAS is another step. Protecting the water you use for cooking, preparing food, and drinking, is another step you can take. At Multipure, we are proud that our Aqualuxe and Aquaperform drinking water systems are NSF-certified to treat the presence of PFOA and PFOS in your drinking water, helping to protect your health, your home, and your family.
- Frish, Paul. “PFAS: What to Know.” WebMD. June 16, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-pfas
- GIbbens, Sarah. “Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ More Common in Tap Water than Thought, Report Says.” National Geographic. January 24, 2020. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/pfas-contamination-safe-drinking-water-study
- Loria, Kevin. “The Dangers of PFAS, Often Called ‘Forever Chemicals’.” The Washington Post. May 23, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/05/23/pfas-forever-chemicals-health-risks/
- Lustgarten, Abrahm, Lisa Song, and Talia Buford. “Suppressed Study: The EPA Underestimated Dangers of Widespread Chemicals.” ProPublica. June 20, 2018. https://www.propublica.org/article/suppressed-study-the-epa-underestimated-dangers-of-widespread-chemicals
- “Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS.” EPA. March 16, 2022. https://www.epa.gov/pfas/our-current-understanding-human-health-and-environmental-risks-pfas
- “PFAS Explained.” EPA. April 28, 2022. https://www.epa.gov/pfas/pfas-explained
- “What Are PFAS?” Fidra. Last accessed July 12, 2022. https://www.pfasfree.org.uk/about-pfas
- “What Are the Health Effects of PFAS?” ATSDR. June 24, 2020. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/index.html