A recently published study conducted by a team of scientists from Auburn University found that short-chain fluorinated compounds, otherwise known as PFAS, are “more widely detected, more persistent and mobile in aquatic systems,” which could present greater problems for humans and the environments in which they live.
The most widely known long-chain PFAS chemicals are PFOA and PFOS, previously used to make Teflon and Scotchgard, respectively. These chemicals have been linked to cancer and other health hazards and have since been phased out of use in the U.S. due to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA estimates that PFAS chemicals like these contaminate drinking water resources for nearly 110 million Americans.
Chemical companies that have been using PFAS in their manufacturing products claim that this next generation of short-chain PFAS is safer than the notorious long-chain contaminants. Key findings from the Auburn study refute these claims. The study shows that the short-chain chemicals are widely detected in drinking water systems, may harm human and ecosystem health, and existing removal treatments are less effective for short-chain than long-chain PFAS.
The study analyzed over 200 individual studies on PFAS to show that the short-chain contaminants may be just as harmful as the long-chain versions, if not more. The short-chain PFAS have been linked to hormonal and reproductive system harm.