November 21, 2023 | Source: | by Mark C. Howell Jr., Ph.D.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of widely-used, man-made chemicals that are likely all around you. They are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down, and they can accumulate in both the environment and the human body. Studies have found that PFAS may cause serious health problems, including cancer.

PFAS include around 5,000 chemicals. They have been produced since the 1940s, but their health and environmental risks only gained widespread attention after the chemicals were found in drinking water in 2001. Nearly everyone has come in contact with these forever chemicals through water, food or consumer products.

The two most common and controversial PFAS are no longer made in the United States. But products made with or containing them may still be imported.

And because they take an incredibly long time to break down and have been so widely used, scientists continue to find these older PFAS in rivers, lakes and many drinking water supplies in the United States. They are so prevalent that a researcher told NPR in 2019 that just about everyone in America has some of these chemicals in their blood.