Forever Chemicals


    In Context 

    A recent study found that rainwater from many places across the globe is contaminated with “per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances,” (PFAs).

    What are PFAs?

    • They are called “forever chemicals” because of their tendency to stick around in the atmosphere, rainwater and soil for long periods of time.
    • They are man-made chemicals used to make nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, cosmetics, firefighting forms and many other products that resist grease, water and oil. 
    • They can migrate to the soil, water and air during their production and use.
    • Since most PFAs do not break down, they remain in the environment for long periods of time. 
    • Some of these PFAs can build up in people and animals if they are repeatedly exposed to the chemicals.
    •  Health risks
      • Decreased fertility, developmental effects in children, interference with body hormones, increased cholesterol levels and increased risk of some cancers.
      •  long-term low-level exposure to certain PFAs can make it difficult for humans to build antibodies after being vaccinated against various diseases.
    • Measures  
      • There are many effective, albeit expensive, methods to remove them from rainwater that have been collected through various rainwater harvesting methods. 
      • It can be done with the use of a filtration system with activated carbon.
      • Recently,. The researchers first placed a PFA compound in a solvent called DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide). 
        • They then mixed it with sodium hydroxide (lye) in water. They found that when this mixture was heated up to boiling temperature, the PFA compound began to degrade.