Martin Sheringer: “The Growing Threat from Chemical Pollution”

On this episode, Professor of environmental chemistry Martin Sheringer joins Nate. Together, they discuss Sheringer’s most recent paper on PFAS - the ‘forever chemicals, their ubiquity in waterways all over the globe, and their numerous critical health effects.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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This show is great, but this episode in particular is like an episode from culture_in_decline. Too bad it’s not fiction.

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Source: It’s raining PFAS: even in Antarctica and on the Tibetan plateau rainwater is unsafe to drink - Stockholm University

«Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made hazardous chemicals that are spread globally in the atmosphere and as a result they can be found in the rainwater and snow in even the most remote locations on Earth. During the last 20 years, guideline values for PFAS in drinking water, surface waters and soils have decreased dramatically due to new insights into their toxicity. As a result, the levels in environmental media are now ubiquitously above guideline levels.

A perspective article by researchers from Stockholm University and ETH Zurich that is published today in Environmental Science & Technology suggests that PFAS define a new planetary boundary for novel entities that has been exceeded.
“Based on the latest U.S. guidelines for PFOA in drinking water, rainwater everywhere would be judged unsafe to drink. Although in the industrial world we don’t often drink rainwater, many people around the world expect it to be safe to drink and it supplies many of our drinking water sources,” said Ian Cousins, the lead author of the study and professor at the Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University.
PFAS have been associated with a wide range of serious health harms, including cancer, learning and behavioral problems in children, infertility and pregnancy complications, increased cholesterol, and immune system problems.

Dr. Jane Muncke, Managing Director of the Food Packaging Forum Foundation in Zürich, Switzerland, and not involved in the work, points out: “It cannot be that some few benefit economically while polluting the drinking water for millions of others, and causing serious health problems. The vast amounts that it will cost to reduce PFAS in drinking water to levels that are safe based on current scientific understanding need to be paid by the industry producing and using these toxic chemicals. The time to act is now.”»

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It’s starting to look more and more bleak… I hardly recognize my own country anymore. Trains are failing due to personal and supply shortages, energy crisis (not just gas), inflation and even a water shortage, in a country filled with water. Also some environmental issues, including PFAS.

And the worst part is maybe society, not recognizing the issues, or even potential solutions for these structural problems. Interesting times :nerd_face:

PFAS is an invisible threat, compared to climate change we can see fires and droughts, but the health effects of PFAS chemicals are not visible in the water we drink or food we eat and the effects may then seem to be coming from nowhere such as fertility issues and cancer. “Great” example of structural violence.

It’s basically death by a thousand cuts for human society due to fertility decrease (caused by PFAS), climate change and biodiversity loss.

But, there seems to be a way out. More research points towards breaking down PFAS.

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This is about a method to filter out PFAS chemicals.


•Complete defluorination of PFOS was achieved in aqueous electrocatalysis.
•Defluorination occurred in the anode microenvironment.
•Efficient defluorination required high lithium and hydroxide ion concentrations.
•Nonprecious materials enhanced electrical energy and capital cost efficiency.