‘Forever Chemicals’ Emitted From Breaking Waves On Our Coastlines 

forever chemicals

‘Forever Chemicals’ Emitted From Breaking Waves On Our Coastlines 

PFAS (aka forever chemicals) have been used in consumer products since the 1950s. We’re just starting to understand how prevalent these chemicals have become in the environment. A recent study found ocean spray could be a significant source of PFAS pollution. In this article, learn more about these forever chemicals and their dangers.


What Are PFAS?

PFAS or ‘per- and poly-fluoroalkylated substances’ are a group of man-made chemicals that are resistant to water, oil and heat. These chemicals have been used in industrial and consumer products for over 70 years. PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they can stay in the environment for long periods. Linda Birnbaum, director of the US Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has said:

“We’re finding (PFAS) not only in the environment, but we’re now finding them in people.”


Products that contain PFAS


Study Finds PFAS Pollution in Ocean Spray

Research into the release of PFAS has raised concerns about human exposure along coastlines. One study found that crashing ocean waves emit more of these chemicals into the air than industrial polluters. The contaminated sea spray likely affects water sources and plant and animal life near coastlines. Swedish researcher Ian Cousins, lead author of this new study, has said: 

“There is evidence that the ocean can be an important source [of PFAS air emissions]… and it is definitely impacting the coastline.”

It was also discovered that PFAS levels were higher in the northern hemisphere due to industrialisation. Worryingly, the coasts of Ireland and Britain show particularly high levels of exposure. 


The Health Effects of Exposure to ‘Forever Chemicals’

It is still being determined what the study findings mean for human exposure. Inhalation of PFAS is an issue, but how much of the chemicals are breathed in, and air concentrations further from the waves, is still unknown.

However, the link between PFAS and adverse health effects is well known. Some PFAS have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, high cholesterol, reproductive disorders, hormonal disruption and weakening of the immune system.

pfas health

Some examples of the health risks associated with exposure to PFAS 


What Is The EPA Doing About PFAS?

1) The use of 2 PFAS (PFOS & PFOA) are currently restricted while additional PFAS are being evaluated for restriction.

2) An action plan to combat POPs (persistent organic pollutants), including forever chemicals, has been put in place.

3) Work is underway to restrict the use of PFAS in fire-fighting foams, aiming to switch to PFAS and fluorine-free alternatives.

4) Research projects, similar to the ELEVATE and FUEL studies, are assessing the risks posed by PFAS to human and environmental health. 


Conclusion for PFAS Emissions in Ocean Spray 

Numerous consumer products have used PFAS for decades. We are now beginning to realise the dangers of PFAS exposure. Some PFAS can even build up in a child before birth, being detected in breast milk. Due to the health effects associated with these ‘forever chemicals’, the issue of PFAS emissions is significant. Consistent environmental testing is crucial to monitor and solve the problem. 


Learn more about Southern Scientific’s Environmental and Testing Consultancy Services here!

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