Contaminated with PFAS – Chemicals falling from the sky with the rain worldwide – News


A Swedish study concludes that you should never drink untreated rainwater. The man is to blame.

According to a new study, rainwater is so badly contaminated with chemicals that it is no longer drinkable anywhere in the world.

Even in the Antarctic or in the Tibetan highlands, the proportion of particularly persistent per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) is 14 times higher than the values ​​for drinking water recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency, according to a study by the University of Stockholm.

Hair shampoo and fertilizing agent

PFAS are found in tens of thousands of products such as shampoos, impregnants, weather-resistant textiles, make-up, coated pans and packaging. There are thousands of different substances in this group of substances.

Water and dirt repellent

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PFAS have the ability to bead up water, grease and dirt – like the proverbial Teflon, which is also a PFAS. These substances all contain fluorine and carbon. And because these two chemical elements form a very strong bond with each other, PFAS molecules are hardly broken down in the environment.

In nature, they practically do not decompose at all and are therefore also called “eternal chemicals”. PFAS has also been spreading in the environment for years and is detected in measurements in water and in the air.

Avoid products with PFAS

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Man tries to imitate the natural water-repellent effect of some plants with the chemical PFAS substances. With potentially fatal consequences.

Keystone/Patrick Pleul

If you want to avoid the use of PFAS, you must make sure when you buy products from the mentioned groups that they are free of fluorine compounds. “One has to ask the sales staff or look out for perfluorinated compounds on the labels,” says ETH environmental scientist Martin Scheringer. “It’s a painstaking process – but if you know it, you should definitely avoid these products.”

PFAS are now so ubiquitous that they will never disappear from the earth, says environmental scientist Martin Scheringer, who worked on the Stockholm study as an expert in environmental organic chemistry. “That’s why you have to avoid more of these substances getting into the environment.”

“These substances accumulate in the environment and will remain there forever,” says Scheringer. The only “hope” is that PFAS will dilute and accumulate in the ocean depths. “But of course it’s not a reassuring prospect.”

Possible effects on fertility

PFAS accumulate in the human body. Some studies conclude that the chemicals can affect fertility or cause developmental delays in children.

An increased risk of obesity and certain types of cancer such as prostate, kidney or testicular cancer is also cited, as well as increased cholesterol levels. According to new findings, the chemicals may also impair children’s immune response to vaccines.

However, according to environmental scientist Scheringer, it is unclear how toxic the concentration of PAFS found in rainwater actually is to humans. “No one knows.”

Why isn’t PFAS banned?

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Chemicals are in principle given official approval if they meet the legal testing requirements. But: “The type of test is far too narrow to reflect the real effects of a substance in the environment,” says ETH environmental scientist Scheringer. “The testing system is almost blind.” The reason for this is the economic pressure to bring these substances to market and use them in products.

A long political process will be needed to change the approval procedure, and the laws will have to be changed. “As long as this has not happened, such drugs can come on the market – and not simply be banned,” says Scheringer.

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