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What if every day you drank water contaminated with a toxic, manmade chemical that had been linked to cancer? What if the company that produced the chemical knew it caused cancer yet did nothing to stop you from consuming it?
For around 110 million people living in the U.S., it's not a matter of "if "—it's just reality.
Labs - Years - Chemicals - Per- - Polyfluoroalkyl
Produced in labs for 80 years, synthetic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were key to the creation of household products like Teflon pans and Scotchgard.
PFAS' carbon-fluorine bonds are some of the strongest in organic chemistry. They're so stable, in fact, that PFAS have been widely referred to as "forever chemicals" because of their indestructability, said Carl Cranor, a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside.
Chemicals - Part - Environment - People - Cranor
"These chemicals are going to be part of our environment long after people are dead," Cranor said. "They're incredibly stable, and they're are all over the world now; the only place they might not exist is high in the Himalayas in Nepal."
Cranor, whose research focuses on legal and moral philosophy, has spent decades studying PFAS and other environmental contaminants that threaten public health.
Type - PFAS - Perfluorooctanoic - Acid - Cookware
He said one type of PFAS called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA—used to make nonstick cookware, among other consumer products—can now be found in the blood samples of up to 99 percent of Americans.
PFOA, also called C8, has been linked to various illnesses and strains of cancer—including testicular, kidney, ovarian, and prostate—since the 1990s, mainly in lawsuits filed against Teflon's manufacturer, DuPont.
Cranor - Memos - Reveal - DuPont - C8
But according to Cranor, internal memos reveal that DuPont had been well aware of C8's toxicity to lab animals far earlier, since at least 1961.
Nearly 60 years later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced its intention to "address" PFAS by evaluating them for the first time.
EPA - PFAS - Action - Plan
The EPA's PFAS Action Plan,...
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