Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals. Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Most UK waste still ends up in landfill, and this includes PFAS-containing products. Studies have shown that the liquid coming from landfills (known as leachate) often contain non-polymer PFAS chemicals. In the USA the total quantities were estimated at 563-638 kg in 2013. To properly break down PFAS chemicals high temperature (1000oC or more) incineration is recommended. Incineration of municipal waste does not necessarily reach these temperatures (min temp. required is 850oC), and the incomplete breakdown could release non-polymer PFAS.Wash and wear of clothing that contains PFAS-based stain-resistant or water repellent finishes release PFAS to the environment. Coatings are thought to lose effectiveness after 20-30 washes. This can include non-polymer PFAS, remnant from production or as a break-down product of side-chain polymers (Lassen et al. 2015). The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes releases PFAS into the environment, both by air and water emissions. PFAS are very hard to remove during water treatment. Industrial emissions are estimated to be the biggest source of these chemicals to the environment.

Over 70% of MPs now know about the forever chemicals, PFAS.

In November last year, we asked you to speak up about the environmentally damaging forever chemicals, PFAS, by emailing your local Member of Parliament. Since then, you have made your voices heard and contacted over 70% of MPs across the country!

The PFAS Problem
Now more than ever, it is essential to speak up about PFAS. The food industry is increasingly recognising the need to reduce single-use plastic , and while we would always advocate for less packaging, where this isn’t feasible, sustainable alternatives have an important role to play. However, many alternatives on the market today may not be as sustainable as they first appear. Fidra’s Forever Chemicals in the Food Aisle report showed widespread use of PFAS in UK paper, cardboard and compostable food packaging. That’s why we need to act now, to avoid simply swapping  one visible pollutant for a hidden and more toxic alternative!

The EU has recently committed to ban all non-essential uses of PFAS, including food packaging, and with the UK Chemicals Strategy currently in development, now is our opportunity to ensure the UK do the same, protecting our health and environment from these persistent and toxic chemicals.

How you’re making a difference
Thanks to your efforts, over 70% of our Members of Parliament now know about PFAS and the risk they pose to our environment. Since we launched the initiative last November, more than 900 emails were sent to MPs all over the UK and 8 new questions on the future of Forever Chemicals have been raised in parliament.

A lot of progress has been made these last few months and we couldn’t have done it without you. So from all of us here at Fidra, we’re sending you a huge thank you for your unrelenting support!

We’ve now closed our letter writing platform, but MPs are there to deal with their constituents’ concerns, so keep talking to them, share your views, and our policy brief will remain freely downloadable if you want to pass it on. And in Fidra, we’ll be keeping a close eye on how these PFAS conversations progress and continuing to engage with policymakers on this important issue.

So once again, thank you!

We’ve built a huge momentum and we’re feeling positive, so watch this space…