By: Jackson Gifford
Summary. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, are chemicals used in the manufacturing process of various products that we interact with on a regular basis. From water-resistant clothing, to food packaging, to even the food that we eat, PFAS have become a part of our daily lives without much notice. While PFAS have great use to manufacturers, they are dangerous to humans due to their inability to be broken down biologically. It has been found that PFAS will accumulate in the human body over time. Their increase in use has caused larger amounts of the chemicals to appear in the human body, and their concentration has been correlated to low infant birth weights and cancer, among other things. While the chemicals were thought to exist mostly in water and food sources, it has recently become more commonly detected in the air that we breathe indoors. This has been linked to PFAS’s use in carpets, floor wax, and more common indoor items that are used in private and public spaces. This has caused great concern in the health of children, who could be exposed to an onslaught of dangerous chemicals without their knowledge. This issue continues to develop by the day as new research is published and more chemicals are identified as dangerous. While the information about PFAS is relatively new, the EPA formed a council this year to address the concerns of scientists and citizens, which it hopes will be able to curb the use of PFAS by manufacturers in the coming years.
Why we should care? PFAS are a new kind of contaminant that are not thoroughly studied. As new research shows the dangerous effects of the chemicals, we need to eliminate their use in production as soon as possible.
I found this article interesting because it shows how much we still do not know about PFAS. In the article, there is an entirely new compound that is identified as dangerous to humans that was initially thought to be safe. I think that there is still so much to be understood about PFAS chemicals, where we are most susceptible to them, and how our bodies interact with them. There are so many effects that humans have on their environment that are still unknown, and the new case of PFAS shows how in the dark we still are. This article does a great job of emphasizing the unknowns of the chemicals and why we need to be aware of them.
Science in Action.
Maya Erin Morales-McDevitt is a Graduate Student at the University of Rhode Island.
Maya Erin Morales-McDevitt is the woman responsible for heading the research that the University of Rhode Island published this year. Not only is this the study cited in The Guardian, but also in countless other news articles covering this topic. Her research revolutionized our understanding of how we interact with PFAS in the air, and how dangerous they actually are. Morales-McDevitt and her colleagues were able to identify completely new compounds that are dangerous to humans, and determined how PFAS particles are able to be transported through the air. This work alone will forever change the way scientists look at PFAS, and will surely change the ways in which they act to diminish their presence.