Forever chemicals – scientifically referred to as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – are a group of synthetic chemicals. People use these chemicals in various industries, including several consumer products.
Forever chemicals have a few unique properties. They are heat-resistant, water-resistant, and also oil-resistant. These properties make them valuable components in manufacturing different types of chemical products.
Although invaluable to the manufacturing sector, these forever chemicals are very harmful due to their pervasive and persistent nature. Because of such nature, they also raise several health concerns, some of which are more concerning and dangerous than others.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common and dangerous health risks associated with using forever chemicals.
#1 Increased Risk of Cancer
According to a report by USA Today, cancer deaths in the US are decreasing. However, experts believe that more can be done to prevent cancer risk in the first place.
One of the most significant health risks linked to forever chemicals is an increased cancer risk. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS is associated with several types of cancer, including kidney, testicular, pancreatic, and liver cancer.
These chemicals accumulate in the body over time, making long-term exposure particularly concerning. Furthermore, PFAS have been found to interfere with DNA repair mechanisms, potentially leading to genetic mutations and the development of cancerous cells.
Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF Firefighting Foam) lawsuit somewhat verifies the role forever chemicals play in increasing cancer risk. According to TorHoerman Law, AFFF, which contains forever chemicals, has been linked to a wide range of cancers which include prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer, among others.
Firefighters, military personnel, airport workers, and industrial workers from different areas of the US have been exposed to this toxic firefighting foam.
As per the latest AFFF lawsuit update, over 4,000 cases have been filed in the AFFF lawsuit. These include a mixture of personal injury claims as well as municipal water contamination cases. The plaintiffs are currently looking to settle the case for $10 billion.
#2 Hormonal Disruption
Forever chemicals can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in our bodies. PFAS compounds have been found to interfere with the function of the endocrine system, which regulates the production and release of hormones.
This disruption can have far-reaching effects on various bodily functions, including reproductive health, metabolism, and immune system regulation. Prolonged exposure to PFAS may lead to infertility, thyroid dysfunction, early menopause, and other hormonal disorders.
#3 Impaired Immune System
Your body’s immune system protects you against various infections and diseases. Unfortunately, forever chemicals can impair the proper functioning of your immune system.
According to a report by New Atlas, scientists from North Carolina State University have found that forever chemicals can disrupt and impair vital functions of human immune cells. This, in turn, makes people more susceptible to infections and diseases. Even vaccine effectiveness is disrupted to a great extent because of this.
On top of all that, forever chemicals also contribute to developing autoimmune disorders. In such a situation, the immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s healthy cells and tissues.
#4 Liver Damage
The liver is responsible for detoxifying harmful substances from our bodies, but forever chemicals pose a significant threat to this vital organ. Studies have shown that PFAS exposure can lead to liver damage, including inflammation, fibrosis, and even liver cancer.
These chemicals accumulate in the liver over time, impairing its ability to function optimally. Liver damage can seriously affect overall health, as the liver plays a crucial role in metabolism, digestion, and toxin removal.
#5 Developmental and Reproductive Issues
Forever chemicals have been linked to various developmental and reproductive issues. Studies have found associations between PFAS exposure and reduced fertility, low birth weight, preterm birth, and developmental delays in children.
Additionally, exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy can potentially harm fetal growth and development. PFAS can cross the placental barrier, affecting the unborn child and increasing the risk of long-term health problems.
#6 Environmental Impact
While this article primarily focuses on the health risks to humans, it’s worth noting that forever chemicals also have significant environmental implications.
PFAS are persistent in the environment, taking hundreds of years to break down naturally. As a result, they accumulate in the soil, water sources, and wildlife, entering the food chain. This environmental contamination not only poses risks to ecosystems but also contributes to human exposure through contaminated food and water sources.
According to the New York Times, the EPA is currently working to make sure that forever chemicals are restricted in drinking water. However, efforts must also be made to ensure that these chemicals are not set loose into the environment either.
Businesses have been using forever chemicals for a long time now. However, recently, with the amount of research that’s being put into their use and impact, concerns regarding the health risks these chemicals pose are being raised. This is also the time to open discussions surrounding the limitation of using forever chemicals and their safe usage.
People, especially those who use forever chemicals for business purposes, need to take the health risks discussed above into serious consideration. Afterward, they must take appropriate actions to ensure their safe usage and, if possible, find alternatives or limit their overall usage.