This page is about a class of chemicals, often called PFAS, that only found applications a few decades ago. They include Teflon, which is applied to the surface of pots and pans because it resists high heat and yet is exceptionally slippery, so it doesn’t become dirty. They also include some firefighting foams which are a common way for the chemicals to enter the environment.
It was discovered in the early 2000’s that these chemicals are so long lasting that they have spread over the entire earth and are present in all of our bodies. Their effects there seem to be to mimic some hormones but their actual clinical effects have yet to be teased out.
Technically, the largest quantity found is perfluorooctanoic acid.
This article from C&E News announces an increased liability for companies producing the two most common chemicals. They must clean up any releases. Cleaning chemicals out of soil is practically impossible. The normal method is to dig up the soil and move it somewhere else. The expected result is for the chemical companies to improve their control over escaping chemicals from piping, valves, vents and vessels so that they don’t face that liability. The surrounding community plays the role of the test population as improvements are fine tuned. I wish that our control over chemical processes were not so derived, but that official commissions or community based committees could be fielded to enter upon the company arena directly and identify and upgrade every single possible source of leakage that could someday subject surrounding communities to an escape, even if it did have to be cleaned up, but following a toxic exposure.
In the January 23, 2023 issue of C&E News, (p. 16) it was reported that fish around the U.S. contain an average of 9.5 ppb PFAS and fish from the Great Lakes contain an average of 11.8 ppb. Current EPA limits on perfluorooctanoic acid in drinking water are 0.004 ppt and 0.02 ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, both much smaller than the levels found in fish by orders of magnitude.