‘Forever chemicals’: the hidden threat from the toxic PFAS on your shelf

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Gulf
  • Date: 14-Sep-2021
  • Source: The Guardian
  • Sector: Industrial
  • Country: Gulf
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‘Forever chemicals’: the hidden threat from the toxic PFAS on your shelf

For months I’ve been watching the construction of our new garage. The breeze-block walls have been built, soffits are in place under the eaves, the concrete floor has been poured and slate tiles are being fixed on to the roof. Soon it will be time to render the exterior with sand and cement, to seal and waterproof the walls, to varnish the new fencing, and finish it all off with a shiny coat of paint.

That means a trip to the DIY store, where the shelves are full of marketing appeals. Glossy varnishes promise to colour wood for five years. Fence treatments are UV resistant and rainproof within half an hour and protect against rot. Masonry paint is no longer just about the colour: do I need pure brilliant or ultra-smooth, anti-mould or weatherproof?

Many of these items rely for their seemingly magical properties on PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), known as “forever chemicals”. This group of synthetic chemicals are used to prevent corrosion, reduce friction and make products waterproof and stain-resistant. Used in everything from cosmetics to food packaging, PFAS also show up in paint (as a binding agent and to give a smooth finish), wood lacquers (for repelling oil