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Forever chemicals

Forever chemicals, scientifically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a group of man-made chemicals characterized by their strong carbon-fluorine bonds, making them extremely resistant to degradation in the environment. This durability stems from the carbon-fluorine bond, one of the strongest in organic chemistry, which is why PFAS can persist for such long periods without breaking down.

Image by Anandu Vinod

The Strengths of Forever Chemicals

The unique properties of forever chemicals, such as their resistance to water, oil, and temperature, have made them incredibly useful in a wide range of applications. From non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing to firefighting foams and various high-tech applications, their durability ensures performance and reliability in products that require resilience to heat, stains, and water exposure. This robustness has led to their widespread use in consumer goods, industrial processes, and even in the medical field.




The Threat of Forever Chemicals

Despite their utility, the persistence of forever chemicals poses significant environmental and health threats. They do not break down naturally, leading to accumulation in water, soil, and living organisms, including humans. Exposure to high levels of PFAS has been linked to a variety of health problems, such as cancer, liver damage, and developmental issues. The very strength that makes these chemicals valuable—their indestructibility—also makes them a pervasive threat to public health and the environment.

Regulations on Forever Chemicals in the EU and US

In response to growing concerns over the environmental and health impacts of forever chemicals, both the European Union and the United States have begun implementing stricter regulations aimed at reducing their use. While acknowledging the challenge that many high-tech applications currently have no viable alternatives to these substances, the direction is clear: upcoming regulations will increasingly restrict the use of PFAS to protect public health and the environment. This regulatory shift underscores the urgent need for innovation in developing safer alternatives that meet the performance standards of today's technologies without the harmful legacy of forever chemicals.

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