(ORDO NEWS) — A substance belonging to the so-called “eternal chemicals” has been discovered in Arctic seawater due to its long exposure to the environment.
PFAS chemicals ( per and polyfluoroalkyl substances ) are used in the manufacture of many household products. While the effects of PFAS on human health are still debated, they have been found in our food and drinking water in the past, as well as in many waterways.
By studying Arctic waters, the researchers were able to detect 29 different PFAS entering and exiting the Arctic Ocean, and, worryingly, one compound – the supposedly less persistent HFPO-DA – has been detected for the first time in these waters.
HFPO-DA (Hexafluoropropylene Oxide Dimeric Acid) was originally developed as a cleaner alternative to PFOS called PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid). But now it is under the scrutiny of environmentalists for the possibility of causing damage to both human health and the environment.
For the first time, HFPO-DA was shown to travel long distances, and also first appeared in the Arctic.
Water samples were taken from the Fram Strait, located between Svalbard and Greenland, which links the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
It is worrying that new chemicals are being discovered here, but research should give us an understanding of how these chemicals circulate.
“The Fram Strait PFAS depth profiles demonstrate that knowledge of ocean circulation, vertical and lateral stratification, and physical mixing processes is critical to understanding the large-scale distribution of PFAS,” the researchers wrote in their published paper.
Higher levels of PFAS have been found in water discharging from the Arctic Ocean compared to water coming from the North Atlantic, suggesting that these substances entered through sources in the atmosphere rather than sea currents.
There are over 5,000 PFAS, and some of them have previously been linked to cancer and liver disease, so many are currently discontinued, including the chemical that HFPO-DA was supposed to replace.
But even though the most toxic PFASs are banned, it will take thousands of years for some of them to degrade in the environment, which is why studies like those in the Arctic Ocean are so important in assessing the risks and distribution of these substances.
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