PFAS in bottled water
By: Nicholas Hill
Summary. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are industrial chemicals used in many products from non-stick cookware to electronics and medical equipment. While they are very important to human industries and livelihoods, they have very damaging and dangerous environmental side-effects. PFAS are deemed "forever chemicals" because they are difficult to breakdown and get rid of in nature. Having something stay around for ever is not always an issue, but studies conducted by scientists and health workers in recent years have found that some types of the PFAS chemicals are harmful to humans and animals. PFAS have damaging after effects towards living creatures including birth defects and cancer growths caused by exposure. In the US alone there have been many documented cases of PFAS chemicals found inside humans. How do these dangerous industrial chemicals make their way into humans and animals? One of the most common ways that PFAS chemicals can harm humans is through drinking water, specifically bottled water. Many plastics use PFAS or similar chemicals like PET (polyethylene terephthalate). When exposed to heat, these chemicals can breakdown and enter the water they were packaged in. But this is not the only way these chemicals can enter our drinking water. In fact PFAS chemicals may have already been in the water before it was packaged. Chemicals dumped by businesses or the plastics that have been stored in landfills can sweep into our water sources where it is difficult to detect. The chemicals are difficult to remove directly as well because one of the most effective ways to separate the harmful chemicals from water is through reverse osmosis, a long and sometimes costly process. In recent years as scientist and governments have learned of the dangers of PFAS, there has been widespread legislation to regulate the amount of chemicals in water and food sources as well as regulate the types and amount of chemicals industries can use in the first place.
Why we should care? For many people around the world clean drinking water is hard to come by. Bottled water is easy to transport around and convenient for many. Adding chemicals to worry about is not good.
This article is particularly interesting because it is about Michigan where we live. It is also very shocking to discover that there has been very little concern for the testing of PFAS chemicals particularly in bottled water but also in our very own Great Lakes. It is also very unsettling that the chemicals are found in many different brands of water and not just one brand. This is evidence that there are many trace sources of PFAS from many different water sources. It also shows that many corporations do not care to test the safety quality of the water they sell. Hopefully the evidence found by scientists will push government to make legislation to test water especially bottled water for people to consume.
Science in Action. Dr. Carl Ng is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburg Swanson School of Engineering.
Dr. Ng works in chemistry, biology, and engineering departments to develop models for environmental conservation. She has worked to study the harmful effects of PFAS on living organisms as well as developed models to track the PFAS chemicals in the global food economy. She has also worked on ways to treat humans that have been exposed to PFAS from developing harmful side effects as well as attack the at their source in the form of "green" environmentally friendly solutions. Other than PFAS, she has worked on projects to help find ways to clean up sources of water pollution and to improve water quality.
I love chemicals that poison us and give us birth defects and raise our chances of getting a million other diseases. Some people may want to get these forever chemicals out of the water because of the health issues, but they are ignoring the record breaking profits of the chemicals companies. Can't we have a little humanity and think if the money they will lose?!!
Great article choice, Nicholas! This is definitely concerning to think about especially when thinking about how many people consume bottled water on a daily basis. To relate it to Michigan, it makes me concerned for residents of cities such as Flint or Benton Harbor who have been forced to switch to bottled water for almost all of their water needs due to the high concentrations of lead in their normal water systems, as they could still be at a high risk of potential health problems because of the PFAS in the bottles.
I had heard about PFAS before but I didn't realize how dangerous it was until we started learning about it more in this class. I used to think bottled water was so much safer and cleaner to drink than tap water but now I see that is not the case. Again I'm not surprised at how corporations don't care about what they are giving to their consumers.
Having learned more about PFAS over these past couple of weeks I think it's sad that despite there being so many health risks associated with them, so little people are actually aware of them. Not to mention out of all environmental dangers PFAS can affect the most amount of people so easily and are practically inescapable. I am sadly curious about the health conditions that can come out go them that we do not even know about yet.
This was definitely a close to home topic for everyone since Im sure everyone in this class has had at some point bottled water. The severity of PFAS in the human body also probably has to do with how much is consumed so that would be a factor in how one would be affected. I remember in the movie in class we watched the animals were dying from unclean water that’s so awful to think about because how would we know if the water we consume is safe enough? We’ve spent quite a bit of time on this topic and now that I feel informed on it I’m realizing how many other people stull aren’t aware of this. I never was until this class. I never really even thought about bottles water or tap water being unsafe for me I suppose. This is a topic that should be more known since it could help a lot of people if they knew about it. The flint water crisis for example has been going on for years and still they aren’t back to 100%. That’s scary to think about your whole city having bad water. Water is something people use so so much of.
I found this so interesting and scary. The fact that we are learning about bottled water and how people will turn to it for a cleaner, “safer” alternative. It’s scary to think that what people may think is a better option could be doing harm as well. It makes me angry to think how all of these companies are marketing their water as safer yet they really do not care enough to make sure it’s chemical/PFA free.
Sullivan E Stack
It is so insane to think that almost all of our water supply is permanently contaminated with PFAS. Even with technologies such as reverse osmosis, it is feasible that we will still be getting contaminated through the food grown/harvested with PFAS contaminated water for the next few thousand years. We absolutely need to develop some method for breaking down these chemicals.
This was a super interesting article choice Nicholas! I can’t believe that PFAS aren’t getting more attention. Seeing as though they can be such a huge issue and how they ARE becoming such a huge issue. It’s scary to think about how much we eat and drink that can contain PFAS.
Before this class, I had never heard of PFA's. It is scary to think about how many products include these "forever chemicals". There needs to be stricter regulations on what these chemicals can be in and where these chemicals are being dumped. I think most urgently, PFA's should be taken out of items that we can ingest, like the bottled waters.
With how often we hear about these harmful chemicals, it seems there could be so many more new ones waiting to be uncovered. Simply changing the length of the carbon chains appears to be these companies strategies of getting rid of PFAS. What other "super" chemicals are the worlds corporations producing that will be shown to be incredibly harmful in the next few years?
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