New study finds ‘forever chemicals’ in rainwater

Water quality guidelines deem rainwater is now unsafe to drink.

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A new study conducted by the Stockholm University found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, in worldwide rainwater. The “forever chemicals” found in rainwater exceeds the advisory levels for water quality set forth by environmental agencies, which researchers said is hazardous to global health.

Based on the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Quality Standard for Inland European Union Surface Water, and Danish drinking water limits, water quality guidelines deem rainwater is now unsafe to drink.

“Based on the latest U.S. guidelines for [PFAS] in drinking water, rainwater everywhere would be judged unsafe to drink,” Ian Cousins, lead author of the study, said. “Although in the industrial world we don’t often drink rainwater, many people around the world expect it to be safe to drink and it supplies many of our drinking water sources.” 

The study, which was published by the American Chemical Society, concluded “that no place on earth is untouched by these chemicals and suggests that PFAS be restricted immediately,” Causes.com reported. Since the chemicals continuously cycle through the atmosphere, soil worldwide is “ubiquitously contaminated” with PFAS, the study found.

PFAS are synthetic chemicals that are able to repel water and oil and are temperature resistant and are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are long-lasting chemicals that slowly break down over time. PFAS are used in a variety of products from non-stick cookware to cosmetics, Causes.com reported.

PFAS are linked to various health issues including liver damage, infertility, gestational diabetes, certain cancers, and lower immune system response, according to numerous studies. As PFAS contaminate natural water, soil, and air these forever chemicals continue to pollute the soil that grows agriculture worldwide, drinking water reservoirs, and the earth’s atmosphere, researchers said.

“This stuff is toxic at incredibly low levels and it’s persistent—it stays there for hundreds of years in the groundwater, thousands of years,” Graham Peaslee, professor at Notre Dame professor and researcher of PFAS, said. “And that means the next generations will be drinking it, and that’s not the kind of legacy we want to leave our kids.”

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