By: Mckenzie Weiss
Summary: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are synthetic organofluorine chemical compounds that are found in many household items such as cleaning products, paints, nonstick cookware, and stain resisting coats found on carpet and other fabrics. This substance has raised concern because of its potential toxicity to humans and wildlife. It is also known as the “forever chemical” due to its persistence in the environment and how long it takes to degrade. PFAS has been found to be linked to a wide range of health problems from different types of cancer to endocrine disruption. In recent studies, PFAS has been newly found in the Arctic seawater. On a research ship, a team collected water samples along two currents going into and out of the Arctic ocean and along a path from Europe's North sea to the Arctic Ocean. Higher levels of PFAS were detected in the water exiting the arctic compared to the water entering the Arctic. When discussing the effects of the substance on wildlife, it has been found to be linked to cause harm in many things such as the immune system, it can cause kidney infection, and affect liver function of bottlenose dolphins as well as the immune systems of sea otters. A build-up of PFAS in Arctic polar bears can cause neurological damage and cause trouble with reproduction. Due to the substance being found more exiting the Arctic than entering, it indicates that the PFAS is coming from the atmosphere and not the ocean and it is considered that snow and ice are what is holding these compounds. We have yet to discover something that accurately lowers the levels of PFAS in the Arctic, but this issue needs to be evaluated.
Why we should care? I think we should care about this topic simply because of the harm it is causing to our wildlife and humans. It causes so much harm to wildlife among a variety of species and a variety of different health effects.
I found this to be particularly interesting for a few reasons. One being that I never knew it was part of our everyday life but it is still harmful to us humans. As mentioned before, PFAS is in household products such as cleaning products, paints, non-stick cookware, and stain resisting coats. I never knew about this substance and the harm it causes which made it more interesting and made me more aware of the harmful effects of it so I can try to be cautious if/when using any of the products that contain it. The article went into depth about the substance and its compound which I found really interesting. I also found it interesting because I do not typically hear about this kind of subject like I should so I enjoyed doing research on it and learning about it.
Science in Action.
Dr. Cora Young is an Associate Professor and Rogers Chair, Department of Chemistry, York University.
York University atmospheric chemist Cora Young as well as Amila De Silva, a chemist at Environment and climate change, did research and came across traces of PFAS in Arctic ice. She decided to focus on smaller compounds that have not been studied as much as others. There were previous hypotheses that these smaller compounds were rising, but Cora Young was one of those to prove it. They found that PFAS, among others, have been rising since as early as 1990. They also found traces of trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), and per fluoropropionic acid (PFPrA). This information is of course relevant to the topic because it provides further information about PFAS, the levels, and how long it has been rising for.