Emory University-led study discovers new class of ‘forever chemicals’ in homes, drinking water

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Led by researchers from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology asserts that a new class of “forever chemicals” are present in U.S. homes and drinking water — and in people. Also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the potential health impacts of the emerging class of “forever chemicals” discovered in the study are still unknown. The source of the compounds also remains unclear, leaving too little information for scientists to determine what precautions — if any — should be taken.

“These results were very concerning, especially considering the concentration of these compounds we found were much higher concentrations than those of legacy PFAS,” study co-author and assistant professor in the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, Amina Salamova, PhD, explained.

“So, it is very important to investigate the toxicity and health effects of these compounds. Because they are also more mobile, so they can get transported to remote areas — through water, for example — which can increase the risk of exposure.”

Ultrashort PFAS have fewer carbons than legacy PFAS, making them more mobile in water. While thousands of different PFAS exist, experts only have “sufficient data” concerning potential health impacts of a small number of PFAS.

“The biggest takeaway is that these new, short-chain PFAS — which have not really received much attention yet — are everywhere,” study co-author and assistant professor of environmental health and epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health Stephanie Eick, PhD, said. “These chemicals also haven’t really even been considered as potential public health problems yet, but they are highly prevalent in people and in dust samples from our homes.”