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For most of the 20th century, chemicals referred to as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were actively used in industry. They are only of artificial origin and used to be part of fabrics, food packaging, building materials, cleaning products and so on. This group of chemicals includes about 5,000 types of substances, and most of them are now banned for use – it was found that they cause irreparable harm to the human body.
But the ban alone failed to eliminate their harmful effects, because these chemicals turned out to be very “tenacious” – their decay time is more than 7 years. Recently, scientists have found that many chemicals from the PFAS group still remain in people’s bodies. One of them, a very common chemical, often leads to the development of liver cancer.
What are “forever chemicals”
Due to their long decay time, substances from the PFAS group are called “forever chemicals” . The fact that many of them harm human health has long been known – as a rule, their danger was proved in experiments on animals. According to scientists, chemicals from this group most often enter the human body along with drinking water. It gets polluted in many ways – usually the source is factories and other industrial enterprises. Banned due to harmfulness, PFAS species still circulate in the water because they decay for a long time. This is their main danger.
Common cause of liver cancer
A few years ago, scientists in Southern California took blood samples from a large group of people. Many of them subsequently developed liver cancer, which in the scientific community is better known as hepatocellular carcinoma. In the course of studying the composition of their blood, it turned out that it contained a large amount of the eternal chemical, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid. After finding this out, scientists concluded that this chemical increases the risk of developing liver cancer by 4.5 times.
Our scientific work fills an important gap in understanding the true effects of exposure to these chemicals,” said researcher Leda Chatzi.
Worst type of cancer
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer. It is difficult to treat, and most patients live no more than five years after the announcement of the diagnosis. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this type of cancer is one of the deadliest. According to statistics, over the past decade, the frequency of diagnosing this terrible disease has noticeably decreased. This was due to a reduction in hepatitis and other liver diseases, which are also a factor in the development of cancer.
A frightening statistic shows that 98% of US residents have some concentration of PFAS. It must be that in other countries the situation is no better. Today, scientists are most interested in finding the answer to the question “what is the safe concentration of perpetual chemicals in the blood?”. There is no particular doubt that they are present in a certain amount in the body of everyone. Now it is important to find out at what level of their concentration in the blood you need to sound the alarm.
How to clean water from “forever chemicals”
This scientific discovery and the information about the existence of “forever chemicals” can make many nervous. There is no data on how to cleanse the body of PFAS, but scientists, at a minimum, are developing technologies for cleaning dirty water. So, in May 2022, environmental engineers from the University of California learned how to remove PFAS from water using iodide. Previously, ultraviolet radiation and sulfites were used to purify water. A new discovery has made it clear that when added to a water purification system, iodide speeds up this process by four times.
Iodide does most of the work. It not only speeds up the reaction, but also allows processing ten times higher concentrations of “forever chemicals,” said researcher Jinyong Liu.
Finally, I note that recently researchers found that cholesterol can protect the liver from inflammation. Read more about this discovery in our previous article here.