‘Forever chemicals’ have made rainwater undrinkable around the world

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | August 29, 2022

Rainwater is no longer safe to drink anywhere in the world because of the large number of “forever chemicals,” or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water, according to a study published on August 2. 

The rain’s “forever chemicals,” which gets its name because of the duration the chemicals exist without breaking down, are all human-made chemicals that are released into the air from repellents, non-stick sprays, packaging, and the manufacturing of the materials for about 120 years.

The study looked at four types of PFAS — PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA — in areas like rainwater, streams, lakes, oceans, and soils. The researchers found that two PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) significantly surpass safe levels of drinking water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines

“Based on the latest U.S. guidelines for PFOA in drinking water, rainwater everywhere would be judged unsafe to drink. Although in the industrial world we don’t often drink rainwater, many people around the world expect it to be safe to drink and it supplies many of our drinking water sources,” Ian Cousins, lead author of the study and professor at the Department of Environmental Science at Stockholm University said in a press release

PFAS are known to be associated with harming human health, including the presence of cancer, learning and behavioral problems in children, infertility and pregnancy difficulties, increased cholesterol, and other issues.

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