Forever Chemicals

March 17, 2023 • Volume 33, Issue 10
Can PFAS be eliminated from the environment?
By Lorna Collier


About 600 of the 12,000 chemical compounds known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are used in a multitude of consumer products and industrial processes because they resist heat, oil, grease, stains and water. Many are known as “forever chemicals” because they are hard to destroy and can last indefinitely in water, soil, air and the human body. PFAS have been linked to health issues and increasingly are the target of regulation and legal action. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 14 proposed its first-ever regulation of PFAS in drinking water, which could force water systems nationwide to make costly upgrades. Several states have banned certain PFAS uses, 28 states are considering new regulations this year and the European Union is considering banning substances. Manufacturers, who discovered the dangers posed by the chemicals decades ago but did not report them to regulators as required by law, have paid out millions in penalties and settlements. Nevertheless, they say, many PFAS are safe when used properly and are irreplaceable and important to the economy. Many retailers have switched to PFAS-free products, and scientists are developing ways to remove the chemicals from public water supplies.

Screenshot from Michigan public radio do not eat fish sign, taken on March 8, 2023. (Screenshot/Michigan Radio/Lester Graham)
A Michigan public radio reporter shares an image of a state sign on social media, warning people not to eat fish caught in the Huron River due to high levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The chemicals, known as “forever chemicals” for how long they persist in the environment and the human body, have been associated with higher risks of some cancers, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and other health conditions. (Screenshot/Michigan Radio/Lester Graham)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Environmental Protection
Mar. 17, 2023  Forever Chemicals
Sep. 02, 2022  Preserving the Seas
Jun. 17, 2022  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 17, 2021  Endangered Species
Nov. 06, 2020  Preventing Wildfires
Jul. 10, 2020  Circular Economy
Nov. 29, 2019  Climate Change and Health
Sep. 20, 2019  Extreme Weather
Dec. 07, 2018  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 02, 2016  Arctic Development
Apr. 22, 2016  Managing Western Lands
Jul. 18, 2014  Regulating Toxic Chemicals
Sep. 20, 2013  Future of the Arctic
Jun. 14, 2013  Climate Change
Nov. 06, 2012  Vanishing Biodiversity
Nov. 02, 2012  Managing Wildfires
Nov. 04, 2011  Managing Public Lands
Aug. 26, 2011  Gulf Coast Restoration
Jul. 2010  Plastic Pollution
Feb. 2010  Climate Change
Jan. 09, 2009  Confronting Warming
Dec. 05, 2008  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Nov. 2008  Carbon Trading
Oct. 03, 2008  Protecting Wetlands
Feb. 29, 2008  Buying Green
Dec. 14, 2007  Future of Recycling
Nov. 30, 2007  Disappearing Species
Feb. 2007  Curbing Climate Change
Dec. 01, 2006  The New Environmentalism
Jan. 27, 2006  Climate Change
Oct. 25, 2002  Bush and the Environment
Oct. 05, 2001  Invasive Species
Nov. 05, 1999  Saving Open Spaces
Jun. 11, 1999  Saving the Rain Forests
May 21, 1999  Setting Environmental Priorities
Mar. 19, 1999  Partisan Politics
Oct. 16, 1998  National Forests
Jun. 19, 1998  Environmental Justice
Aug. 23, 1996  Cleaning Up Hazardous Wastes
Mar. 31, 1995  Environmental Movement at 25
Jun. 19, 1992  Lead Poisoning
May 15, 1992  Jobs Vs. Environment
Jan. 17, 1992  Oil Spills
Sep. 20, 1991  Saving the Forests
Apr. 26, 1991  Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Dangerous?
Sep. 08, 1989  Free Market Environmental Protection
Dec. 09, 1988  Setting Environmental Priorities
Jul. 29, 1988  Living with Hazardous Wastes
Dec. 20, 1985  Requiem for Rain Forests?
Aug. 17, 1984  Protecting the Wilderness
Jun. 15, 1984  Troubled Ocean Fisheries
Aug. 19, 1983  America's Disappearing Wetlands
Feb. 22, 1980  Noise Control
Nov. 16, 1979  Closing the Environmental Decade
Oct. 13, 1978  Toxic Substance Control
Feb. 27, 1976  Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits
Nov. 28, 1975  Forest Policy
May 30, 1975  Wilderness Preservation
Dec. 20, 1974  Environmental Policy
Nov. 14, 1973  Strip Mining
Dec. 01, 1971  Global Pollution
Jul. 21, 1971  Protection of the Countryside
Jan. 06, 1971  Pollution Technology
Jun. 19, 1968  Protection of the Environment
Oct. 30, 1963  Noise Suppression
Agricultural Research
Congress Actions
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Federal Courts
Internet and Social Media
Lobbying and Special Interests
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Protest Movements
Regulation and Deregulation
Science and Politics
Workplace Safety and Worker's Compensation