A campaign of Eliminating PFAS -Have you realized a toxic chemical in your daily life?

When we eat, drink and wear something, we may never think about what will happen on our bodies and the environment. This is a good time to think about it. Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a kind of chemicals and they already exist in environment and daily life. The Victoria EPA (environment protection authority) has conducted a series of studies about PFAS. The scientists from Victoria EPA published several factsheets and made videos to raise public attention about influence of PFAS.
Where PFAS come from?
Normally, PFAS are heavily used in firefighting foams and these chemicals are helpful for smoother fire. PFAS are also employed to manufacture other industrial products as well as consumer products. As a result, we may touch PFAS when we eat food, drink water or wear clothes. If you live close to firefighting training site and military site, you may be exposed to high concentration of PFAS.by water and they cannot degrade naturally. These two features cause a lot of environmental issues and health effects.

Image credits from INSIDE BATTELLE

PFAS are used in firefighting foams. Image credits from INSIDE BATTELLE

• How PFAS affect the environment?
Due to high solubility of PFAS, this property may cause serious contamination in environment. The contamination transport is along food chain in ecosystem. At the first, PFAS can exist in water system such as lake and ground water. Polluted water may be used to irrigate farmland. This is likely to lead to further contamination of soil. Additionally, this farmland is also used to raise up crops and vegetation. This means that crops and vegetation are also exposed to PFAS. Next, secondary consumers in food chain such as cattle and fish may eat contaminated crops and aquatic plants. Therefore, PFAS may come into their bodies. Finally, quaternary consumers in food chain like shark and lion are more likely to be exposed to PFAS, because they eat secondary consumers which PFAS have already existed in their bodies. Furthermore, concentration of quaternary consumers is the highest among all animals because PFAS concentration can increase with food chain transport. This means that animals at the inferior position of pyramid food chain have lower PFAS concentration than animals at superior position.

• PFAS pollute our drinking water
A survey was conducted by Jakobsson et al from Lunds University in 2014 and it aimed to test the concentration of PFAS in Swedish public water suppliers. They found the areas where was closed to firefighting training grounds and air force base showed very high concentration of PFAS. The PFAS concentration reached 10,000 ng/L which was more than 100 times of standard of drinking water in Sweden,90 nanogram per litre (90ng/L). From this report, the final conclusion about survey is some of public water supplier where are located around firefighting training station had to be closed due to high concentration PFAS. This may cause damage to human health if they drink polluted water by PFAS for long time.

Water sample test for PFAS. Image credits from  AARON MAHONEY

• PFAS also cause global warming
We all know carbon dioxide leads to global warming. Meanwhile, one of volatile PFAS also can make contributions to global warming. Recently, environmentalists stated this chemical can hold much heat compared to carbon dioxide, and this can increase atmospheric temperature.

Image credits from Ventia
Test PFAS from soil. Image credits from Ventia

• PFAS in soil & vegetation
PFAS can be transported by flowing water. This may cause continuous pollution of soil and vegetation. Plants can absorb necessary nutrition from water and soil. As a result, we can detect PFAS in some plants. In 2009, UK Environment Agency published a standard for one of PFAS, ie perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS). This institute stated PFOS concentrations lower than 39 micrograms in 1 kilogram(39mg/kg) of soil may have no effect on plant growth.

• PFAS pose a threat to mammal animals
Environmentalists have a long-term research on PFAS. They believe that PFAS may have an adverse effect on mammals especially marine mammals like fish. The main reason is that marine mammals live in water and this system is already contaminated by PFAS. Fish eat aquatic plants are exposed to PFAS. PFAS in fish’s body may cause damage to their organs especially livers. This may cause a decrease in birth rates due to low egg production.

• What impact of PFAS on our bodies?
Environmentalists and scientists make efforts to find specific influences of PFAS on our healthy. For example, they investigate the relationship between cancer and PFAS and also pregnancy with PFAS. Unfortunately, there is no direct and consistent result to demonstrate these relationships. Currently, they only get experimental results from rats and this cannot provide enough information to indicate main cause of illness from PFAS.
• Let PFAS get rid of our life and ecosystem
Decade ago, governments do not allow industries and companies to manufacture or import products contain PFAS. However, this policy only can reduce PFAS. If we want to remove PFAS, we should find substitutes of PFAS and they are environmentally-friendly and non-toxicity. Additionally, we should change our habit. For example, drink purified water and live away from firefighting training site or airport. This can reduce exposure to PFAS. Moreover, we should tell our family and friends to do same thing or impart this information to public via social media. This a good time to join us campaign. I believe that PFAS will disappear because of our efforts.