A family of potentially toxic chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS), are widespread in our environment due to their use in a range of products including carpet, furniture, clothing, food packaging, and more. According to a study originally published in Environmental Science & Technology, newer members of the PFAS family have now been found in the Arctic Ocean. This discovery worries scientists because it means PFAS can reach any body of water and are likely present in our water supply.
As Daniel Ross reported in an October 2020 article for Truthout, PFAS chemical exposure is known to have serious impacts on human health, including certain cancers, liver damage, thyroid problems, and increased risk of asthma. People with elevated levels of PFAS chemicals are twice as likely to develop a severe form of COVID-19 since these chemicals are endocrine disruptors.
Emerging research shows that an important pathway for spread of PFAS is through the air and rainwater. The Arctic Ocean study published in July 2020 assumed that PFAS compounds are entering the water from atmospheric sources rather than from ocean circulation. This is a major problem for regulators as they attempt to remove these highly soluble chemicals from the environment — especially bodies of drinking water. If more of these PFAS spread throughout water supplies across the globe, people will face serious health consequences. Researchers have only found small traces of this substance in water supplies so far, but they fear the situation will get worse over time.
This global issue had not yet been reported in the establishment media. There have been other independent news sources to report this topic but Daniel Ross from Truthout was the first to report on this issue. Researchers see this issue as a “global problem” because PFAS have the potential to be “everywhere.”
Daniel Ross, “More Traces of Cancer-Causing PFAS in Arctic Raise Alarm Over Global Spread,” Truthout, October 18, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/more-traces-of-cancer-causing-pfas-in-arctic-raise-alarm-over-global-spread/.
Sharon Lerner, “PFAS Chemical Associated with Severe Covid-19,” The Intercept, December 7, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/12/07/pfas-pfba-severe-covid-study/.
Student Researchers: Kolby Cordova and Natalia Fuentes (Sonoma State University)
Community Evaluator: Polette Gonzalez