Bold plan to manage ‘forever chemicals’

Australians may not realise it. They share their food, homes and even their bodies with potentially harmful substances dubbed forever chemicals.

Australians may not realise it. They share their food, homes and even their bodies with potentially harmful substances dubbed forever chemicals.

Technically they’re not forever but are long-lived and don’t easily break down in the environment.

The chemicals are contained in countless everyday products and are known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS for short.

Experts say their use in everything from food packaging and non-stick cookware to cosmetics and carpet means they’re part of us.

“We all have some PFAS in us,” Jen Martin, involved in researching exposure in livestock, told a recent conference in Sydney.

“They are ubiquitous in the environment and humans. Many of these can bioaccumulate (become concentrated inside the bodies of living things), are persistent, and have toxic properties.”

Authorities can’t agree on how many PFAS there are, with estimates ranging from 4000 to 8000.

What’s certain is they are now present in rainwater and snow in even the world’s most remote locations, where there are no obvious sources of contamination, a Stockholm University study recently found.

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