Why we should care about the “Forever Chemicals”

Why we should care about the “Forever Chemicals”

by Sarah Rauf -
Number of replies: 0

You might have never heard of Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), even though they are part of our everyday products. PFAS are a group of chemicals that can be found in a wide range of consumer products, like non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, furniture, carpets, and food packaging. They are characterized by their chemical stability, water and grease resistance, and water-repellent properties.

The chemicals were first synthesized in the 1930s by chemists in the United Stated. They were first developed as specialty chemicals for use in a variety of industrial and commercial applications, like surfactants and fire suppression foams. Despite early warnings about the potential health risks of PFAS, the widespread use of these chemicals continued for several decades. In the 1990s, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to investigate the environmental and health impacts of PFAS, and in 2000, several companies agreed to lower its production. 

The reason why PFAS are so useful is due to their chemical properties, which make them highly resistant to heat, water, and other environmental factors. This has made them ideal for use in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, such as in firefighting foam.

However, PFAS also have many negative impacts on the environment and by extension on human health. These chemicals can enter groundwater, rivers, and lakes and therefore also come into our food chain. Some PFAS compounds have also been linked to various health problems, such as cancer, hormone disruption, kidney damage, and impaired immune function. Due to these concerns, many countries have restricted or banned the use of PFAS. Some companies have also begun using alternatives and more environmentally friendly chemicals.

https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/2546/bilder/pfas_-_verbreitung_kreislauf.jpg PFAS spread via air, water and soil

Image Source: https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/2546/bilder/pfas_-_verbreitung_kreislauf.jpg  

It is quite obvious that it's not easy to completely avoid PFAS as they are used everywhere. You can come into contact with PFAS through food, drinking water, clothing, cosmetics, and many other products. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce your exposure. It is important for consumers to be aware which products contain PFAS and to make an effort to avoid them in order to protect themselves and the environment.

Some tips to minimize exposure to PFAS include:

  • Use stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic pans instead of Teflon pans.
  • Avoid purchasing water and dirt-resistant textiles.
  • Use reusable glass or stainless-steel containers instead of plastic or cardboard packaging with water-resistant coatings.

Overall, we should all strive to reduce our use of PFAS and find more environmentally friendly alternatives in order to protect the health of our communities and our planet. 


[1] Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, nukleare Sicherheit und Verbraucherschutz (o.J.). Per- und polyfluorierte Chemikalien (PFAS).  https://www.bmuv.de/faqs/per-und-polyfluorierte-chemikalien-pfas[21.02.23]

[2] Europäische Umweltagentur (o.J.).  Was sind PFAS und inwiefern sind Sie für meine Gesundheit gefährlich? https://www.eea.europa.eu/de/help/haeufig-gestellte-fragen-faq/was-sind-pfas-und-inwiefern[21.02.2023]

[3] Umweltbundesamt (o.J.). Perfluorierte Alkylsubstanzen. 
https://www.umweltbundesamt.at/umweltthemen/stoffradar/pfas [21.02.2023]

[4] Kinder und Jugendliche haben zu viel PFAS im Blut (o.J.).https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/presse/pressemitteilungen/kinder-jugendliche-haben-zu-viel-pfas-im-blut[21.02.2023]. 

[5] Duffek, A.: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in blood plasma - Results of the German Environmental Survey for children and adolescents 2014-2017 (GerES V). In: International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health

[6] Kinder und Jugendliche haben zu viel PFAS im Blut (o.J.).https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/presse/pressemitteilungen/kinder-jugendliche-haben-zu-viel-pfas-im-blut[21.02.2023].