National Toxicology Program – A number of commonly used chemicals have come under scrutiny, after a top federal government official, and some environmental scientists expressed health concerns. The problem is that these chemicals are so common that they are used in manufacturing pizza boxes or even carpet treatments. The groups of chemicals are commonly known as Perfluorinated Alkylated Substances (PFAs).
These chemicals have a unique property that they repel a number of substances including water. Over 200 scientists have come together from 38 countries to sign the Madrid statement. The statement has now been published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, published by National Institute of Health.
The harmfulness of PFAs is nothing new to the scientific world, previously some PFAs have been found to be hazardous and thus have been replaced. However, scientists have now pointed out that the replacement is done by chemicals that are structurally similar; hence the reduction of the risk is very small. The process is already being termed as “toxic whack-a-mole”.
The Madrid statement cited that the US legislation allows for the use of chemicals in industries, until they are proven harmful. It has enabled the industries to use chemicals just for their unique properties, without realizing the health hazards it could pose.
The last time PFAs faced such scrutiny, was when it was found to be lingering in the system of consumers. It was known to significantly increase the risk of cancer, amongst other health problems. Consequently, just one type of PFAs were banned, with the companies discontinuing its use in phases.
Now that the alternatives have come under fire, the companies argue that the alternatives are safe. While the companies are making use of studies conducted on these chemicals to contest their view, but scientists believe that the research has not provided sufficient evidence to justify their use.
Linda S. Birnbaum, the head of National Toxicology Program, commented: “Research is needed to find safe alternatives for all current uses of PFASs. The question is, should these chemicals continue to be used in consumer products in the meantime, given their persistence in the environment?”