Monday 8 July 2024

New Study Confirms Forever Chemicals Are Absorbed Through Human Skin

A new study on widespread “forever chemicals” by the University of Birmingham published in Environment International proved for the first time that a wide range of PFAS chemicals can be readily absorbed through human skin. Although the chemicals are already well known to enter the body through other means such as ingestion (eating and drinking) and inhalation, it has until recently been thought that PFAS are unable to breach the skin barrier. The new study, however, confirms that most of them can enter the body via this route.  

Dr. Oddny Ragnarsd├│ttir, the lead author of the study, stated: “The ability of these chemicals to be absorbed through skin has previously been dismissed because the molecules are ionized. The electrical charge that gives them the ability to repel water and stains was thought to also make them incapable of crossing the skin membrane”. The research instead shows that this theory does not always hold, and significant amounts of PFAS exposure can be a result of absorption through the skin.  

Among the thousands of different types of PFAS, the researchers chose 17 of the most widely used and studied, and those that directly corresponded to chemicals specifically regulated by the EU’s Drinking Water Directive. Of the 17 tested PFAS, 15 showed substantial absorption of at least 5% of the exposure dose. The study also showed that absorption correlated with carbon chain length, with longer chain molecules absorbing less than shorter chain molecules. This study provides much needed evidence of how skin contact and carbon chain length can affect exposure and raises several questions at a time when industry is shifting towards shorter chain PFAS believing them to be less toxic. 

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Chemical Makers Sue Over Rule to Rid Water of ‘Forever Chemicals’

Unsurprisingly, in the wake of new PFAS regulations, some in the industry are pushing back against the tough new treatment standards.

Great story in the New York Times on the topic:

On June 10, the New York Times reported a lawsuit by several chemical and manufacturing groups against the federal government over the per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) “Forever Chemical” drinking water standards announced by the EPA two months prior. The groups claim that the new regulations exceed the government’s authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act by requiring municipal water systems across the country to filter out some of the synthetic chemicals to near non-detectable levels.  

While the EPA has said that the new standard will prevent serious illness and even death for thousands of people, these groups, along with some utilities, have brought challenges against the standard, questioning the science behind it and citing the potential cost of filtering out the chemicals. The American Water Works Association and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies believe the EPA have “significantly underestimated” the cost for treatment plants to meet the new standards, with the EPA estimating about $1.5 billion annually to comply and utilities claiming it could cost twice that amount.  

Ahead of the filing, Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, in a public address defended the administration’s standards, stating: “Everyone should be able to turn on the tap and know that the glass of water they fill is safe to drink”. EPA officials also stated that the standard was based on the best available science and designed to be, “robust enough to withstand litigation”.