Rainwater on Earth is undrinkable due to the presence of toxic chemicals that exceed recommended levels, according to a recent study by scientists from Stockholm University.
“There is nowhere on Earth where rainwater would be safe to drink, according to the data we used,” Ian Cousins, a professor at Stockholm University and principal, told AFP. author of the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
His team studied data compiled since 2010 and showed that “even in Antarctica or on the Tibetan plateau, the levels present in the rainwater are above proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines,” he adds.
Normally considered untouched, both regions have PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl) levels “14 times higher” than US drinking water guidelines.
More commonly referred to as “the eternal chemicals” because he disintegrates extremely slowly, PFAS, initially present in packaging, shampoos or even make-up, have spread into our environment, including water and air.
A once ingested, PFAS accumulate in the body.
According to some studies, exposure to PFAS can have effects on fertility and fetal development. It can also lead to increased risks of obesity or certain cancers (prostate, kidney and testicles) and increased cholesterol levels.
The EPA recently lowered the recommended PFAS threshold, after discovering that these chemicals could impact the immune response to vaccines in children, notes Ian Cousins.
The planet is 'irreversibly contaminated'
According to Ian Cousins, PFAS are now 'so persistent' and ubiquitous that they will never disappear from Earth.
“We have made the planet inhospitable to human life by contaminating it irreversibly, which means that nothing is clean anymore. And to the point that it's not clean enough to be sure,” he says.
“We have passed a planetary limit,” says Ian Cousins, referring to a model to assess the Earth's ability to absorb the impact of human activity.
The scientist notes, however, that levels of PFAS in the body of humans have decreased “quite significantly over the past 20 years” and that “ambient levels (of PFAS in the environment) have remained the same over the past 20 years”.
“It is the recommendations that have changed”, specifies the researcher, explaining that the recommended level of PFAS has been lowered “millions of times since the beginning of the 2000s, because we know more about the toxicity of these substances”.
Despite the findings of the study, Ian Cousins considers that we must learn to “live with them”.
“I am not very worried from daily exposure to mountains, waterways or food. There's no escaping it…we're just going to have to live with it.”
“But it's not an ideal situation, where you've contaminated the environment to the point that exposure natural is not really safe”.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128