Can we destroy the 'forever chemicals'? Scientists have come up with a new promising method
Just two things were enough for the scientists to make the forever chemicals harmless. Keep reading to find out which ones.
They are in waterproof cosmetics, electronics, fire extinguishing foams and packaging. Yet they also help us remove stains, grease or keep us dry.
We're talking about the 'forever chemicals'. It is a group of about 4,700 chemicals which do not naturally occur in nature. And why are they called 'forever chemicals'?
The reason is obvious - they are unbreakable so there's no way we can get rid of them as they contain carbon-fluorine chemical bonds.
The bonds are so strong that no enzyme, bacteria or substance in nature can "break" them.
However, this would not be a problem if the chemicals did not have adverse health effects.
They are in our bodies, too
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are commonly released into groundwater, surface water and soil. Not even wastewater treatment can remove them
Then, they go up the food chain. So it is no surprise that they get into your body from food or water. No big deal if they were harmless.
However, as many studies have shown, the risks are substantial. For example, a recent Danish study found that if boys are exposed to chemicals early on in the womb, the chemicals harm the development of their testicles
In addition, inadequate levels of PFAS have been shown to increase the risk of liver or kidney cancer, cause damage to the hormonal and immune systems, or contribute to higher cholesterol levels.
The fact that up to 80% of US waterways are contaminated by forever chemicals (up to 97% of US citizens have them in their blood) says it all. Permissible levels drastically exceed the state and federal limits.
The paradox is that the UN intended to restrict the use of the chemicals as early as 2004 under the Stockholm Convention. What was the result?
The regulation is not so effective. Perfluorooctanoic acid, which is also a forever chemical, is still used, for example, in the production of Teflon.
The European Union, which is one of the leading parties to the Stockholm Convention, plans to reduce the use of the chemicals to zero. However, this goal has not been achieved yet.
Can this method destroy them?
Two reagents (compounds) and low boiling point. That was all it took for Northwestern University scientists to eliminate the forever chemicals. Specifically, to turn them into substances with no adverse effects.
The process is to cause the two major classes of PFAS to fall apart leaving behind only benign end products.
This chemical treatment method can help clean up contaminated soil and water.