All the world is a lab where, for centuries, scientists have released their chemicals. Once the chemicals were found to have billionaire-making capacity, they were approved. Even after harms were identified, they were still produced. Industry used as many delaying tactics as possible. It is never about the health of the environment. It is never about the health of people, let alone the health of animals. The only thing that has ever really mattered in modern societies is healthy profits.
PFAS are sometimes called forever chemicals. They come in multitudes and are a tiny part of the overall chemical galaxy. PFAS are in a huge range of products. They are, for example, great at protecting and lubricating electronic devices. They have important uses in cellular networks and for renewable energy. They are incredibly durable. In fact, nobody really knows how long it will take them to break up in Nature. It could be hundreds or thousands of years.
We drink them, eat them, inhale them, rub them on our skin. They are everywhere on this Earth; in the seas, in the air, in the soil, in the food, in the blood, the brain, kidneys, everywhere. Since the 1960s, their dangers have been well known. They can cause high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension. They have also been found to reduce the “number of antibodies that children maintained after they received tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations,” Kim Tingley reports for the New York Times. “They have also been implicated in endocrine disruption, metabolism and immune dysfunction, liver disease, asthma, infertility and neurobehavioral issues.” The damaging potential of forever chemicals is vast.
As with 99% of toxic chemicals, there are practically no regulations to prohibit their use. “It can be somewhat amazing to learn that we have very little understanding of the galaxy of chemicals that all of our daily products that are surrounding us in our homes, are made of,” scientist Josh Lepawksy told me. “There are quite literally millions of different chemicals available for industrial use, but only in the order of thousands have ever been tested for their toxicity. Environmental toxicologists, in looking for new toxins of concern, have found a previously unknown chemical toxicant, not in some unexplored cave, but in the dust from electronic recycling facilities.”
“I really think even scientists who are not involved don’t fully appreciate that there is no chemical safety testing,” says Scott Belcher, an associate professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University. “There is this mythical ‘they,’ that ‘they’re’ taking care of this, and it must be safe because it’s out there. That’s a common misconception about how this works.”
Everything on this Earth is connected and interconnected. Since the 1970s, in particular, humans stopped living on the Earth and instead started to devour it. We raided the bank of Nature and grew arrogant on its proceeds. We polluted every single microscopic place on our beautiful planet. The culture of growth, progress and innovation that drives this devouring frenzy now wants to double down and grow its way out of the problem it grew its way into.