By: Alex Leh
Summary. As other entries have posited, PFAS are an expansive category of toxic chemicals. PFAS can be found in a wide array of products and uses; grease resistant coatings for food packaging, cookware, stain resistant cloth, water resistant cloth, fire suppression foam and myriad more things. PFAS are highly stable compounds that seemingly do not break down in the environment at all. Along with an expansive list of health effects associated with exposure to these chemicals, PFAS should be feared. Scientists analyzed rainwater collected in Cleveland this past summer, and found PFAS concentrations of 1000 parts-per-trillion(ppt). Many more sites are being studied too. The Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network (IADN) is an international coalition of researchers dedicated to study pollution in the great lakes region. Scientists from the EPA and Canada set up monitoring stations in Cleveland, Chicago, Sturgeon Point (NY), Sleeping Bear Dunes and Eagle Harbor and have been studying the waters there since 1990. Across these sites, 38 separate PFAS compounds have been detected with concentrations of 100-400ppt. This is troublesome, as the seemingly remote areas are harboring harmful quantities of these chemicals. These results seem to conclude that PFAS are migrating in the air and precipitation to deposit elsewhere, deep in nature. Considering their stable nature, our lakes and ponds are continuously accumulating higher and higher concentrations of PFAS at this very moment. After a 1 year study, IADN researchers conclude that PFAS contamination are several orders of magnitude more concentrated than other pollutants.
Why we should care? I like to explore. It is already commonplace to see warnings of PFAS contamination in our parks and rivers. Considering the data, many more recreation sites will have warnings, or close outright.
This article is interesting because it uncovers the ubiquity of PFAS pollution in Michigan. Concentrations of PFAS high enough to cause harm are being found in rainwater and ponds, hundreds of miles away from their respective manufacturing plants. With natural bio-accumulation processes, we are slowly ensuring the destruction of our beautiful and scenic environment. Given how many recreation sites I have personally seen with PFAS warnings already, rivers may soon have to close to activities. The EPA and EGLE need to do more to educate the public on the dangers of PFAS, and to regulate/ban their use in industry.
Science in Action.
Dr. Marta Venier is an Assistant Professor at The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
Dr. Marta Venier is an environmental chemist that studies pollution. She was born in Italy, and received her laurea degree in chemistry from the University of Trieste. Venier then went on to get her PhD in environmental science from Indiana University in Bloomington. She tries to find out where pollution comes from, how it moves, and where it ends up. She mainly studies organic pollutants, like polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, PFAS and flame retardants. Her lab uses mass spectroscopy to study air, water, soil and biological samples. Venier has been the lead of the IADN since November of 2019.