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Forever chemicals

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Forever chemicals


  • Since their inception in the 1940s, the so-called forever chemicals have woven themselves into the fabric of our modern world.
  • But recently, they’ve been appearing in alarming news headlines about their damaging effects on our health.
  • PFAS have, in fact, come under intense scrutiny due to new research showing their persistent nature in the environment and potential health impacts.

What are forever chemicals?

  • Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals, numbering approximately 4,700 variants.
  • What makes them different is their formidable carbon-fluorine (C-F) bonds, renowned among scientists as the mightiest in chemistry.
  • This stability makes them an important ingredient in many products.
  • PFAS, in various forms, have played pivotal roles in creating oil- and grease-resistant food packaging, non-stick cookware, water-and stain-resistant textiles, and fire-fighting foams, to name a few.

  • Their versatility has propelled them into our daily lives.
  • The strength of their carbon-fluorine bonds is also what makes them resist breakdown by natural processes.
  • Their longevity, often measured in centuries, has earned them the moniker of “legacy compounds”.

Side effects of forever chemicals:

  • Their presence has been detected in worrying concentrations in drinking water,  soil, air and even in Arctic ice.

  • Recent scientific investigations have unveiled a concerning connection between PFAS exposure and damage to health, both in humans and animals.
  • These effects include an increased risk of cancer, liver damage, compromised immune function, developmental disorders and hormonal disruption.
  • The adverse health effects can be traced to their persistence within the human body.
  • Unlike many substances that are metabolised and eliminated over time, PFAS accumulate in bodily tissues and fluids without breaking down.
  • This accumulation creates a perpetual, self-sustaining cycle: PFAS contamination permeates rivers, soil and the food chain.
  • These chemicals find their way into the bodies of humans and animals, where they continue to accumulate over time.

Syllabus: Prelims

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