PFAS are artificial chemicals that are used in industries and consumer products worldwide. The need to develop grease-proof, waterproof, stick-proof, and stain-proof products has dramatically impacted the production of PFAS over the last decade (Wittenberg, 2022). The uncontrollable production of PFAS materials is categorized as a global threat. Some of the PFAS chemical patent, known as Teflon, was discovered in the DuPont plant in 2001, serving tens of thousands of people in the area. The water from the plant was declared unsafe for human consumption, raising concerns to the Food and Drugs Administration department. Even though the Food and Drugs department is introducing various policies to safeguard human safety, there is still mass production of PFAS chemicals.
Establishing more manufacturing or chemical production industries that either produce or use PFAS has dramatically impacted the production rate of PFAS chemicals (US EPA, 2021). The continuous growth of medical equipment, food, and textile industries has called up for more production of PFAS chemicals. Furthermore, PFAS are used by firefighters in the production of liquid foam in putting off the fire. PFAS chemicals manufacture packaging papers and bags in food industries to attain water and grease-proof products. However, the chemicals are exposed to drinking water through fire training, industrial wastes, and spillage into rivers and lakes by-products containing them. Human foods can also be contaminated through the use of PFAS in the making of packaging bags.
Wastewater treatment plants are on the frontline in polluting water bodies with PFAS chemicals (dyaniwood, 2019). Municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants pollute waterbodies from leakages, discharges from fluent, air emissions, or disposal of biosolids generated during the treatment process. PFAS contaminates most of the wastewater received by municipal wastewater treatment plants from consumer products or industrial wastes. The wastes find their way to human water storage leading to water contamination, making it vital since it is slightly noticed on time.
PFAS, known as ‘forever chemicals,’ has recently become a dangerous global health concern (Sinclair et al., 2020). The ever-present nature of PFAS in the environment, high stability, and increased toxicity in humans and animals through water contamination have troubled human health. Humans and animals suffer the risks of obesity, liver damage, fertility issues, and thyroid disease due to exposure to PFAS chemicals. Furthermore, individuals suffer the risk of contracting cancerous disease, which leads to death or permanent deformation of body organs because of PFAS exposure in the environment and human bodies.
The continuous water contamination rate by PFAS chemicals has called up for various strategies. Public members are encouraged to determine if PFAS chemicals are in their water (US EPA, 2021a). Individuals getting their drinking water from public drinking water must contact their local water utility to learn how addressing of PFAS. Furthermore, public water providers are required to conduct PFAS water tests or share information with the public about the condition of the water. However, some public water providers need PFAS information on their water, making it difficult to fight against water contamination.
The government of the United States of America initiated activated carbon treatment for PFAS removal from the environment (US EPA, 2018). Through absorption, activated carbon is made from organic materials with high carbon contents, such as coal. Absorption is a physical and chemical method for accumulating substances such as PFAS chemicals. Moreover, activated carbon can be traced in water industries in taste and odour removal and absorption of organic compounds. Activated carbon is considered the most effective method in fighting PFAS pollution in water due to its chemical and physical properties.
As the government continues to call upon our food packaging and textile industries, we must establish a more effective and dependable system of ensuring zero environmental pollution due to releasing PFAS chemicals into the environment. I call upon all citizens, leaders, and heads of state to recognize the lost time and money allocated to fighting for zero environmental pollution. Going against the recommended PFAS policies will forever put our civilians’ lives at risk, and everyone must protect and maintain our environment.
Analysis and Policy Proposal
Numerous policy proposals for reducing PFAS chemicals in the environment have been implemented over the past decade. The primary inspiration behind this proposal have been: a) the introduction of operating license in the production, packaging and distribution of cosmetics through the Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP) by the Food and Drugs agency; b) the restriction of class B fire fighting using foams containing a high level of PFAS; and c) reducing dietary exposure to PFAS that posses as a health concern. In addition, the U.S. EPA has established several Health Advisory levels PFOA, PFOS, GenX chemicals and PFBS. This section highlights ways to deal with the environmental threat caused by PFAS. For each option, we describe its purpose and the policy change needed and provide evidence and evaluation of the possible solution and competing policy solutions.
PFAS chemicals are ingredients in several cosmetics used in the beauty industry. The need to sort for these ingredients is a threat to the environment due to PFAS exposure to the environment as a pollutant. However, according to Risk Assessment of Fluorinated Substances in Cosmetic Products (2018), 17 of the 18 tested products contained PFAS chemicals. The highest level of PFAS concentration was recorded in a foundation which amounted to 3,340 ng/g PFHxA, while the combined concentration for the 17 cosmetics was 10,700 ng/g PFHxA. To control PFAS production, the government, through Food and Drug Agency, has introduced a Voluntary Cosmetics Registration Program. The program is intended to control the amount of PFAS produced within the manufacturing, packaging, and transporting department of cosmetics reducing PFAS production by 5%.
The government, through Indian law, restricted the use of foams in firefighting training to set out class B fires. The foams used contain a high level of PFAS chemicals which ends up in our water bodies leading to water contamination. However, the use of foams in setting out class B fires can only be used if proper measures are implemented to prevent the release of firefighting foams into the environment. According to FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Launches Plan to Combat PFAS Pollution (2021), The United States of America government awarded $1.5 million in grants to The University of Arizona to research other ways of dealing with class B fires. This is one of the methods of minimizing the release of PFAS into the environment.
The Food and Drug Administration is increasing testing of the food supply to reduce dietary exposure to PFAS. The agency has analyzed over 350 study samples for PFAS, assisting approximately seven states. For the next three years, FDA has promised to proactively engage and assist federal states in areas suspected of experiencing food contamination because of PFAS exposure and expand its development. To reduce food contamination and pollution of the environment, the FDA monitors and ensures that companies adhere to packaging requirements.
Introducing policy license cosmetics is an effective way of curbing the rising environmental threat due to the release of PFAS chemicals into the atmosphere. This policy’s shortcuts are voluntary based, making only a few people adhere to the changes. The government should make the policy mandatory and introduce new laws to ensure maximum minimization of PFAS pollution because of cosmetic production, packaging, and distribution. This move will ensure maximum cooperation, reducing the production of PFAS and the pollution of our water bodies.
To minimize diet exposure because of PFAS contamination, the government, through the FDA, should create public awareness regarding the issue by educating civilians on the dangers accompanied by food and water contamination. The government should ensure that civilians benefiting from public water are safeguarded. This can be done by regular checking of PFAS concentration levels through tests. Furthermore, the government must impose heavy legislation to discriminate pollution of water bodies by industries. The move will reduce the amount of untreated waste in water bodies from industries.
Dyaniwood. (2019, July 8). Sources of PFAS. Utah Department of Environmental Quality. https://deq.utah.gov/pollutants/sources-of-pfas
FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Launches Plan to Combat PFAS Pollution. (2021, October 18). The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/18/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-launches-plan-to-combat-pfas-pollution/
Risk assessment of fluorinated substances in cosmetic products. (2018). https://www2.mst.dk/Udgiv/publications/2018/10/978-87-93710-94-8.pdf
Sinclair, G. M., Long, S. M., & Jones, O. A. H. (2020). What are the effects of PFAS exposure at environmentally relevant concentrations? Chemosphere, p. 258, 127340. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.127340
US EPA, O. (2018, August 23). Reducing PFAS in Drinking Water with Treatment Technologies. Www.epa.gov. https://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/reducing-pfas-drinking-water-treatment-technologies#:~:text=Activated%20carbon%20treatment%20is%20the
US EPA, O. (2021b, October 15). Meaningful and Achievable Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Risk. Www.epa.gov. https://www.epa.gov/pfas/meaningful-and-achievable-steps-you-can-take-reduce-your-risk
US EPA. (2021, October 14). Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS. Www.epa.gov. https://www.epa.gov/pfas/our-current-understanding-human-health-and-environmental-risks-pfas
Wittenberg, E. A. C., Ariel. (2022, March 7). Inside FDA’s “forever chemicals” catastrophe. E&E News. https://www.eenews.net/articles/inside-fdas-forever-chemicals-catastrophe/