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Over the past 20 years, new knowledge regarding the toxicity of the compounds has resulted in a significant fall in the PFAS guideline levels for drinking water, surface water, and soils. Environmental media consistently have PFAS levels above the recommended range. On a global scale, PFAS concentrations have above safe levels, according to researchers. Because of PFAS concentrations, rainwater in even isolated areas like Antarctica and the Tibetan plateau is now unsafe for eating.
“There has been an incredible reduction in guideline values for PFAS in drinking water in the last 20 years,” says Ian Cousins, the study’s lead author.
For instance, the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a well-known member of the PFAS class that causes cancer, has seen its drinking water guideline value decrease by 37.5 million times in the US. Rainwater would be considered dangerous to drink worldwide, according to the most recent US criteria for PFOA in drinking water. Many people around the world assume rainwater to be safe to drink, even though we don’t typically drink it in the industrial world, and it provides many of our sources of drinking water.
For more than ten years, the team has monitored the atmospheric presence and movement of PFAS. The researchers have discovered that PFAS concentrations in the atmosphere are not decreasing despite major industries having cut out production decades ago.
Sea spray aerosols are one of the natural processes that transfer PFAS back into the atmosphere from the surface ecosystems.
Martin Scheringer, the study’s co-author, says “The above-mentioned guidelines will continue to be exceeded due to the exceptional persistence and ongoing worldwide cycling of certain PFAS. Now that PFAS have spread globally, all environmental media will breach environmental quality standards intended to protect human health, and there is little we can do to lessen the PFAS pollution. In other words, it makes reasonable to set a limit on the amount of PFAS that can exist on the globe, and as we conclude in the research, this limit has been reached.”
Infertility, pregnancy difficulty, elevated cholesterol, immune system disorders, learning and behavioural difficulties in children, cancer, and PFAS have all been linked to major health problems. Environmental Science and Technology has published a viewpoint piece.