It's time to clean up 'forever chemicals' and companies should pay


Artificial compounds found in things like food packaging can be a risk to our health. We can clean them up, but who will foot the vast bill? 8 May 2024

/ You are probably aware of the term “forever chemicals”, if not entirely clear on the specifics. What they are is a class of around 16,000 artificial compounds called PFAS that break down very slowly, if at all, in the environment and our bodies. They are extremely useful, but also a potential hazard to wildlife and human health. After more than 80 years of widespread and often unconstrained use, PFAS pollution is more or less everywhere, from the soil on our farms to the rain that waters them. In all likelihood, you have a detectable amount of these chemicals in your body. A growing body of research has linked exposure to some types of PFAS to harmful effects, such as kidney disease, immune dysfunction and certain types of cancer. Just a few parts per trillion of some forms accumulated over time is enough to be detrimental. Moreover, exposure is more or less unavoidable. Skipping greaseproof packaging or filtering tap water may limit acute exposure, but there are many other contamination routes. In any case, for most of us, it is already too late.