What Are Forever Chemicals and Why Are They Dangerous?

Have you heard about forever chemicals? While they have beneficial uses, they can also be dangerous. So, let’s find out more.

What are Forever Chemicals?

Picture a chemical so clingy that it sticks around for what feels like an eternity. That’s your forever chemical in a nutshell. Also known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), they’ve got this uncanny ability to resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Because of this, industry folk love them for making all sorts of products non-stick and waterproof.

dangers of forever chemicals

However, there’s a downside. Forever chemicals mingle with soil and water and they don’t break down, which means they stick around in the environment and cause harm. They can also harm us human beings.

Types of Forever Chemicals

Now, let’s take a look at some of the different types of forever chemicals.


First up on our PFAS all-star list is PFOA – or perfluorooctanoic acid. It used to be a big shot ingredient in making Teflon non-stick pans until it was discovered that the chemical can cause health concerns.


PFOS – or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid – is the Don Juan of stain and water repellents. You would find it showing off in furniture, carpets, and even clothes, making spills afraid to stick around. But just like PFOA, PFOS was given the boot from manufacturing after scientists and health experts started doing a double-take on its safety credentials.


Then there is GenX (short for hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid), which is sort of like the sequel to PFOA. It hit the scene promising a better alternative with less baggage but guess what? It turns out that it may not be all that different when it comes to sticking around and causing a fuss health-wise.


Cruise over to PFNA – or perfluorononanoic acid. This is like PFOA’s bigger cousin which is gradually taking up more space in our environment, especially as PFOA gets phased out.

Why Are Forever Chemicals Dangerous?

Alright, let’s cut to the chase—forever chemicals are a sneaky bunch and there’s a growing concern about their knack for causing trouble.

Here’s why these persistent little critters have scientists, environmentalists, and health-conscious folks up in arms.

1. Accumulation Anxieties

Forever chemicals do not just visit; they move in permanently. They accumulate in our bodies over time because we cannot easily break them down or excrete them.

This means the more we are exposed, the higher the levels get—which is like an unwanted chemical savings account that you never wanted to open.

2. Health Hazards Galore

Long-term exposure to PFAS has been linked to a laundry list of health issues. We are talking about increased cholesterol levels, thyroid problems, liver damage, immune system issues, and even fertility troubles – plus developmental delays in children.

Forever chemicals can be ingested in several ways. They can even end up in the body after using Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which is the firefighting foam used by firefighters. It has been linked to health problems like kidney cancer, fertility issues, and ulcerative colitis – to name just a few.

As a result, firefighters who developed such health issues after being exposed to the forever chemicals that the foam contains are now filing AFFF foam lawsuits to seek compensation.

3. Environmental Persistence Perils

They weren’t kidding when they called these chemicals “forever” — they linger longer than an awkward silence after a bad joke. In other words, they contaminate soil and water supplies with the tenacity of glitter from a kid’s craft project — impossible to completely clean up.

Worse, this means they can travel through ecosystems, getting into plants and animals, messing with their health and our food supply in a domino effect that is about as welcome as a bull in a china shop.

About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the CEO of BioEnergy Consult, and an international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biogas technology, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. Salman has participated in numerous national and international conferences all over the world. He is a prolific environmental journalist, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. In addition, he is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability through his blogs and portals. Salman can be reached at salman@bioenergyconsult.com or salman@cleantechloops.com.
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