Table of Content:
2.0 Cancers caused by carcinogens
3.0 What is PFAS?
4.0 Marine Life in Danger
Harmful chemicals when coming together and stay in the environment for a long time are known as ‘forever chemicals’. Substances like perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl are found everywhere today. Teflon and other PFAS use in coating of the utensils are the major causes of cancer in humans during this age. These chemicals other than utensils and home appliances are also found in packaging products, boxes for storage, fast food wrappers, household items and also drinking water.
The environment today is witnessing a material known as ‘Carcinogen’ which is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that upholds carcinogenesis; from which the cancer is formed. Carcinogens may increase the risk of cancer by altering cellular metabolism or damaging DNA directly in cells, which obstructs with biological processes and encourages the unrestrained, malignant division, ultimately leading to the development of tumors.
Cancers caused by carcinogens
- Breast Cancer
The most widely spread cancer today in women is breast cancer; making it the second most common cancer in the world.
- Lung Cancer
Occupational contact with carcinogens is also one of the causes of lung cancer today other than smoking, exposure to air pollution and tobacco; making it the most common cancer in the world.
- Stomach Cancer
Oxidative DNA damage leads to carcinogenic mutations. Helicobacter pylori infection is the main cause of this dangerous cancer. Carcinogens that are present in the diet or drinking water are majorly responsible for stomach ulcers, tumor and other stomach-related diseases. All the PFAS chemicals have at least one carcinogenic quality that ultimately results in cancer in humans.
According to Alexis Temkin, a PHD, a toxicologist at EWG (Environmental Working Group), “The lack of evidence for the carcinogenicity of these less-studied chemicals was very surprising. There is environmental contamination by these chemicals and human exposure occurring, but a little data to support the levels that we find in drinking water.”
What is PFAS?
The amalgamation of carbon and fluoride forms PFAS. According to David Andrews, a senior scientist at the EWG, “It is one of the biggest threats in drinking water that people don’t have a complete understanding of and it’s been around for decades.” Most drinking water contamination occurs due to people living near factories, manufacturing plants and wastewater treatment facilities that deal with PFAS”. Forever chemicals are a group of synthetic chemicals when consumed by people that leads to disorders, cancer, reproductive dysfunctions and pregnancy complications.
PFAS other than hampering human health is also a bothersome concern for the marine creatures. According to Anna Robuck, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, “For over 10-15 years, we have really developed this super negative picture of what PFAS does to humans, but we have barely scratched the surface of that in wildlife.” PFAS found in oceans and seas are in large quantity that stays longer for decades and decades, travels everywhere and is not easy to destroy. Thus, a growing body of researchers suggests that marine wildlife is accumulating high amounts of harmful ‘forever chemicals’ that are just building over and over with time.
PFAS has been observed over the years by scientists and environmental toxicologists and they have been studied rigorously on how they travel to the shores and ocean basins and never break down. PFAS studies show that they do not degrade and ultimately harm a lot of marine creatures. These forever chemicals are found in a lot of fishes and other aquatic creatures which are eventually consumed by big sea creatures or humans. Humans consume seafood that contains high levels of forever chemicals leading to immunity disorders, kidney dysfunction, Parkinson’s disorder, liver and thyroid problems, high cholesterol and cancer.
Marine Life in Danger
PFOS, a phased-out PFAS that still travels in the oceans today like a roaring wave creates immunity dysfunction in dolphins and other fishes. Studying marine wildlife is more difficult than studying animals on land because oceans and seas are vast and diverse and the comparisons cannot be drawn very efficiently like those of land animals. And so most of the time, conclusions are generalized as the majority of the marine life is yet to be discovered and the dangers drawn could not always be accurately studied.
The chemical compounds composed by the factories and manufacturing units discard their waste in the water bodies and that is one of the major reasons for large quantities of PFAS found in the oceans and seas. According to Sydney Evans, a research scientist for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, “The burden needs to be on these companies and manufacturers to prove their compounds are safe.”
It is high time that the manufacturing industries come out with sets of regulations and safety measures to see to it that the compounds are not harmful and also they have proper waste management systems to ensure no harmful chemicals enter the atmosphere or the water bodies.
Our lives are subjected to all the comforts and luxuries in the world today but we are really paying a price for it; through our health. The man unexpectedly consumes ‘forever chemicals’ that not only hamper his own health but is also a grave concern for the future generation. In order to make our lifestyle better, we are dependent on items that we utilize every day by knowing the effect of them. Harmful radiations and chemicals also affect the brain cells in humans resulting in psychological disorders, hallucinations and depressions.
People residing close to the units dealing with PFAS are risking their own lives as they are unknowingly consuming these chemicals, either in the form of drinking water, seafood or air pollution. These forever chemicals do justice to its name as they are here to stay forever. They do not break down naturally and breaking them down by mankind is a long vigorous process. States such as Washington, New Hampshire and New York have banned some products made with PFAS and states like Michigan and New Jersey have reduced drinking water limits considerably.
The only solution to this problem is avoiding or limiting exposure to PFAS as much as we can by directly not coming in contact with it, avoiding fast food and boxed items, staying farther from factories and manufacturing units and making as many people aware about it as possible.