Extinguishing the Risk of Forever Chemicals: State of the Science to Protect First Responders

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Source: Office of the Attorney General
Source: Office of the Attorney General

December 13, 2021 | Originally published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on November 9, 2021

Forever Chemicals, aptly named because they are resistant to breaking down, are artificially produced chemicals used to enhance everyday products like stain-resistant clothing and furniture, cosmetics, and food packaging material. Scientists refer to them as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS includes thousands of individual compounds that have been used worldwide since the early 1950s. PFAS are used in so many products that we are all exposed to them on some level, whether it be through the air we breathe, the soil our food is grown in, the water we drink, or many of the products we use daily like cosmetics or stain- and water-resistant furniture and carpeting. In fact, a 2007 study found that more than 98% of people in the U.S. had PFAS present in their blood. Unfortunately, PFAS exposure has been linked to an increased risk of negative health outcomes such as cancer (kidney and testicular), increased cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure. These findings caught the attention of the first responder community, many of whom are also exposed to PFAS when putting out building and vehicle fires, using special class B foams that put out high-energy liquid fuel fires, and when wearing uniforms and protective clothing that use treatments/additives.

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