BC Takes Aim at "Forever Chemicals"

BC Takes Aim at "Forever Chemicals"

British Columbia (BC) recently made headlines by becoming the first Canadian province to sue manufacturers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as "forever chemicals." The lawsuit states these companies are responsible for widespread contamination of drinking water systems in the province. As in the 2019 film, Dark Waters, this sort of contamination can have far reaching, insidious implications.

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals valued for their water and stain repellent qualities. However, their very strength is their weakness: they persist in the environment for centuries - earning them the nickname "forever chemicals." Studies have linked PFAS exposure to a variety of health problems, including certain cancers, immune system dysfunction, and childhood obesity, and more. These substances can be found even within developing embryos, due to our persistent, and often unwilling, exposure. Most people don't realize that an overheated Teflon pan will kill birds (this is due to their highly efficient respiratory systems).

The BC lawsuit targets manufacturers for their negligence in failing to warn about the dangers of PFAS, and for deceptive marketing practices. This is akin to what cigarette companies faced in the past. Perhaps the most concerning aspect of PFAS is just how pervasive they are. These chemicals are used in a shockingly wide range of products, including:

  • Non-stick cookware: The coating that keeps your eggs sliding around so effortlessly? PFAS.
  • Stain-resistant carpets and upholstery: Forever chemicals can repel spills, but they can also repel a healthy living environment.
  • Water-resistant clothing: That raincoat keeping you dry? The waterproofing might come courtesy of PFAS.
  • Food packaging: From pizza boxes, takeaway containers, to microwave popcorn bags, PFAS are lurking in the materials that come into direct contact with your food.

Unfortunately, even bottled water, sometimes viewed as a "safe" alternative to tap water, isn't immune. A 2021 study revealed that PFAS contamination was present in a significant percentage of bottled water samples tested.

The BC lawsuit is a landmark effort to hold manufacturers accountable for the environmental and health costs associated with PFAS contamination. The outcome of this case will be closely watched, not just in Canada, but around the world. In the meantime, consumers must take steps to minimize their exposure by being mindful of the products they purchase, and opting for PFAS-free alternatives whenever possible. Don't let the price of convenience be your health.

 

Bottled water PFAS study:

Detection of ultrashort-chain and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in U.S. bottled water - ScienceDirect

 

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