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Sustainability Quiz 19: PFAS chemicals

Sustainability Quiz 19: PFAS chemicals

Sustainability Quiz 19. PFAS chemicals are in many many things we wear, cook with and live in. What are they also called?

PFAS and their chemical relatives are called Forever Chemicals - a group of 3,000 man-made chemicals that have been manufactured since the 1940s and are used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water. They are now known to cause widespread environmental contamination & extensive human disease. Some, but not all, are banned.

PFAS chemicals are in everything - cosmetics,  outdoor gear, non-stick pans, food wrappers, and more. What are they also called?
      Forever Chemicals
      Fire-fighting foam


Problematically, Forever Chemicals persist - ie they don't break down and are cumulative over time, hence their name. Most people have some Forever Chemicals in their body – and the problem is that these chemicals are associated with cancer, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, and other health effects. 

Household names now banned

The most notorious Forever Chemicals were used (now banned) to make Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard, but they are in cosmetics, outdoor gear, non-stick pans, food wrappers, and countless other things. When products like these end up in landfills, the chemicals seep into our soil, air, and drinking water. That's how they are ending up in food, wildlife, and even our bloodstream.

High profile court cases

A class action against the Department of Defence over PFAS chemical contamination of homes and lands from PFAS chemicals used over decades in firefighting foam on military bases, resulted in a $212.5 million settlement for Oakey, Katherine and Williamtown communities on the 26th of February 2020. Other class actions are in motion for other communities around Defence bases.

What can you do?

The good news is that you are spoilt for choices. The bad news is you are spoilt for choices. Forever Chemicals are literally everywhere and in everything and that's somewhat problematic. 

  • Use stainless steel and cast iron cookware. If you have non-stick, never heat it over 200°C.
  • Don’t use microwave popcorn bags, or other plastic microwave gear
  • Use untreated / uncoated dental floss
  • Buy untreated carpet
  • Buy non-PFAS clothing and sports gear
  • Don’t buy cosmetics or household items that have PTFE or perfluor as ingredients.
  • Bring your own take away container – made of glass or metal.

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