Wednesday, February 28, 2024

What Are PFAS and Why Does North Carolina Keep Having Issues With it?

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An avid traveler and storyteller, Jane Smith takes readers on immersive journeys through her vivid narratives, capturing the essence of each destination with her evocative writing.

North Carolina is a state with stunning natural beauty. Known for its ecological diversity, it is one of the few states where people can visit both; mountains and oceans.  The state has also been a significant figure in America’s military history.

Featuring two of the biggest American military installations, Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, it has created many fine soldiers.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to escape a sense of unease regarding the ongoing reports of toxic pollution.

Certain “forever chemicals” are causing extreme levels of contamination in the state’s water bodies.

In this article, we will explore what “forever chemicals” refer to as well as North Carolina’s troubled past with them.

What Are Forever Chemicals and How Do They Affect The Environment and Our Health?

“Forever chemicals” is a colloquial term used to refer to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). This is a group of synthetic chemicals that are notorious for their stability and resistance to degradation in the environment.

PFAS are commonly used in a wide range of industrial and consumer products due to their water and grease-resistant properties. The term “forever chemicals” came to be because of how long these chemicals take to break down in the environment.  Estimates range from hundreds or even thousands of years for them to fully break down.

Sadly, the average person can do little about big petrochemical industries and the way they contribute to this pollution. This pollution usually happens through the irresponsible disposal of wastewater into natural bodies of water. Let’s look at why this is a problem.

PFAS is Particularly Dangerous in Soil and Water

PFAS can leach into soil and groundwater from various sources, including manufacturing sites, landfills, and firefighting training areas. This contamination can lead to the presence of PFAS in drinking water supplies, surface waters, and aquatic ecosystems.

They can also make their way into fish and other aquatic organisms. This leads to biomagnification in food chains. The result?  A higher concentration of PFAS in predators and adverse effects throughout entire ecosystems.

North Carolina is experiencing precisely this situation. To be accurate, PFAS contamination isn’t a recent problem in the state. Even back in the 50s through the 80s, Camp Lejeune had experienced a major PFAS contamination incident.

The PFAS contamination of water used by marines, staff, and family members at the base caused widespread cancer. Litigation against the government has since been ongoing, and the Camp Lejeune lawsuit payout per person could reach $500,000.

According to TorHoerman Law, this figure might vary depending on how severely you or your family member was affected.

How Can People Keep Safe From PFAS Contamination?

Thankfully, there are several steps to reduce exposure to PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) and minimize the associated risks.

Most people have enough sense to avoid obviously toxic water. If you aren’t sure how to tell, PFAS-contaminated water often has sticky, bright white foam. You can find such foam on river banks.

Not all foam is dangerous though. Natural foam is also a thing and appears off-white or brown in color. You can find it near bays or where there are blockages in the water passage.

Shockingly, PFAS chemicals can be found even in the most inconspicuous items these days. You can find some of these chemicals in plastic bottles and containers. These chemicals tend to mix with food when the plastic is heated.

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This is why you should never drink from a plastic bottle that was left in a hot car. Similarly, avoid placing hot food in plastic containers. Another common source of PFAS is non-stick cookware. You have to be extra careful that you don’t scrape the coating, which is known to contain these harmful chemicals.

Conclusion

Water contamination by PFAS and other forever chemicals is a dangerous crisis that the country faces. Sadly, some states like North Carolina seem to have persistent issues in this regard.

The frightening part happens when this water makes its way into our taps and daily sources of water. Until the authorities can find ways to address toxic water, it will have to be our responsibility to stay safe.

There’s a reason why a lot of families have made it a habit to filter and boil water before consumption. However, even these steps only destroy 73% of PFAS chemicals. Reverse osmosis treatment is slightly more effective and manages to destroy 90% of PFAS chemicals.

If you think that you are being exposed to PFAS chemicals, you must take action immediately. The consequences of long-term exposure to PFAS are serious. The likelihood of cancer is known to significantly increase the more you are exposed to these chemicals.

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