The Peril of PFAs 

We have heard of the saying “bonds last forever” like relationships or diamonds. Unlike these meaningful bonds, dangerous bonds can also last forever as noted with the perils of plastics. The plastics polluting our oceans are not entirely visible. However, the abundance of plastics affects us indirectly to the point of altering our brain chemistry and affecting our bodies, slowly swallowing the healthy life on Earth. One of the most common plastics contributing to the environment’s current state is PFAs, also known as forever chemicals. Invented in the 1930s, these chemicals were used by a US Navy Aircraft Carrier in the 1960s after extinguishing the fire. PFOS and PFOA are fluorocarbon compounds resistant to oil, heat, and air. They have many uses in home products like pans, grease-resistant microwave-popcorn bags, carpets, pipes, water repellents, and fire extinguishers. Thus, it is relatively unsurprising to know that 5000 chemicals are known as PFA plastics.

Scientists are skeptical about how useful PFAs really are as PFAs put lives at a huge risk. According to Jason Cannon, a toxicology professor at Purdue Uni, the carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest. These chemicals contaminate many water bodies and make their way into the bloodstream. His study proved how PFAs are toxic to the brain. Roundworms in the lab had high activated dopamine levels, hormones for addiction. On the contrary, the organism with Parkison’s disease has a depletion of dopamine levels. Another study published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology shows how to function with Northern leopard frogs with neuromelanin. The forever chemicals caused frogs to have lower levels of dopamine. 

To add to the increasing abnormalities, neural chemistry in children is changing for the worse. PPFAs could have indirectly caused speech development disorders as they have targeted children’s attention, behavior, motor, and learning processes. In Norway, a study recorded cognitive and motor scores in children exposed to PFAs. In addition, there were high serum concentrations, as shown in mouthing behavior and other gestures. Children also displayed “floppy baby syndromes” or hypotonicity (low muscle tone). Aside from affecting the brain, PFAs have been linked to kidney, thyroid disease, cancer, and reproductive issues. Today, we understand that PFAs are widely used in several consumer products. However, the chemicals cause neurological and physical problems such as delayed development and dopamine spikes/falls, leading to increased neurological disorders, inhibiting metabolic processes, and causing liver problems. In addition, the chemical companies deceive consumers and do not take adequate action to help remove the plastic from PFA products so they can keep their profits high.

Fortunately, people are voicing out against the overuse of plastics like PFA. For example, a North Carolina water treatment group built a new facility with activated carbon that sucks PFAS out of water. Other methods of creating shorter chains of PFA or destroying PFAs include electrochemical, thermal, and ultrasonic energy treatments to break down PFA molecules. Unfortunately, with the recent Supreme Court favoring capitalism over protecting the environment, EPA cannot do much to outlaw PFAs or restrict the production of PFA except warn those companies. In addition, the FDA failed to regulate the use of PFAs. Citizen activism becomes more critical with efforts to preserve the environment, such as volunteering in cleanups and supporting the Clean Water Action Movement. Next time we order a frying pan, toy, or carpet from Amazon, we should remember to avoid PFA-related products by reading labels and using sustainable alternatives like metal cutlery, steel pans, or packaging boxes free from PFAs.

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