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Forever Chemicals: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAs)

Forever Chemicals- Relevance for UPSC Exam

  • GS Paper 2: Governance, Administration and Challenges– Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to: Health; Education.

Forever Chemicals: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAs)_3.1


Forever Chemicals in News

  • A recent study published in Environment Science and Technology has found that rainwater from many places across the globe is contaminated with “per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances,” (PFAs).
  • PFAs are also called “forever chemicals” because of their tendency to stick around in the atmosphere, rainwater and soil for long periods of time.


Forever Chemicals: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAs)

  • About: According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAs are man-made chemicals used to make non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, cosmetics, firefighting forms and many other products that resist grease, water and oil.
  • Environmental Hazard: PFAs can migrate to the soil, water and air during their production and use.
    • Since most PFAs do not break down, they remain in the environment for long periods of time.
    • Some of these PFAs can build up in people and animals if they are repeatedly exposed to the chemicals.


Harmful Effects on Human Health

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists a variety of health risks that are attributed to PFA exposure, including-
    • Decreased fertility,
    • Developmental effects in children,
    • Interference with body hormones,
    • Increased cholesterol levels and
    • Increased risk of some cancers.
  • Recent research has also revealed that long-term low-level exposure to certain PFAs can make it difficult for humans to build antibodies after being vaccinated against various diseases.




Can PFAs be found in the rainwater in India?

  • While the recently published research article did not include studies of samples collected in India, the nature of PFAs and the wide geographical breadth of samples and the nature of PFAs means that the results can be extrapolated to India.


Can Forever Chemicals be Destroyed?

  • While there is no known method that can extract and remove PFAs from the atmosphere itself, there are many effective, albeit expensive, methods to remove them from rainwater that has been collected through various rainwater harvesting methods.
  • One way to do this would be to use a filtration system with activated carbon. The activated carbon will need to be removed and replaced regularly.
    • Also, the old contaminated material must be destroyed.

Growing Heavy Metal Pollution in Rivers

Growing Heavy Metal Pollution in Rivers

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